Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I Think I Might Be in Labor...

Here it is, our labor and delivery story!  CAUTION before forging ahead:  I'm going to go into some detail during this post.  There will also be pictures of a slimy baby.  If either of those things don't sound like something you're interested in, well, you may not want to read too much further.  I'll try to distinguish when more "detailed" portions are coming (hint: when I start talking about pushing maybe skip ahead to the pictures of our clean little boy being held by his daddy).  If you want a summary of my thoughts about labor and delivery, our birth plan, the hospital, etc. you can scroll down past the sign off.

Around 11:00 pm on Monday the 18th Jason and I sat down to do our Lenten Bible Study.  After finishing up we were both pretty tired and settled into our bed around midnight.  Little did we know, those kicks and rolls felt before drifting off to bed would be the last tummy kicks we would feel!  
At 1:30 pm I woke up needing to go to the bathroom.  Nothing out of the ordinary, I had become accustomed to waking regularly for bathroom trips in the night.  While in the bathroom I started to notice a some cramping in my back that would radiate to my pelvis.  They were decently painful.  The pain would go away for a bit, but then return.  Since I've never been in labor before, I had no idea what to expect when it came to contractions.  I decided to get out my phone and time them just to see if there was any kind of pattern or consistency.  
In all my reading in preparation for labor, I had learned that contractions typically start out about 30 seconds long and anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes apart.  Because of this, I didn't think I could be in labor, because these pains were definitely coming closer together than 10 minutes.  But I started timing anyways.  

 Sure enough, a pattern did seem to exist.  These cramps were coming about every 3 to 5 minutes and lasting about 45 seconds long.  At this point I decide to wake up Jason.  He had instructed me to wake him after establishing some kind of pattern.  I really wasn't sure what to do.  There was a pattern, but if my contractions were this close together then I should already be on my way to the hospital, and that didn't make any sense.  I figured I would let Jason know and ask him to help me decide if this was real labor.
"I think I might be in labor..."
"You think?  If you're not sure, then you're probably not in labor."
I thought this was a pretty reasonable answer.  Surely I would know when I was in labor.  So I tried to lay down and go back to sleep.  This was a no go.  I got up and started walking around doing some deep breathing.  Whenever a cramp would hit I would bend over on the bed and breathe through it.  At this point, Jason decided something was going on and got out of bed.  He asked to look at my contraction counter so he could see what was going on. 

 He was equally baffled.  If these were actual labor contractions I should have been in the hospital awhile ago.  I could tell they were getting stronger.  I had to manipulate myself relatively often whenever they hit into a different relaxing position.  I found being on my hands and knees, butt in the air was one of the most comfortable.  At this point Jason decided to give the hospital a call and get their opinion.
"Hi, yes, my wife is past her due date and has been having some cramping on and off.  It's happening about every 3 to 5 minutes and lasts 45 seconds long...but she never had any short contractions far apart, so we're just trying to decide if this is false labor or if we should come in...okay, thank you.
"They said they can't really say anything unless you're there and they check if you're dilating...I guess we could just drive up there and let them check.  If you're not in labor or not progressed very far we can come home and labor here for a bit like we had planned."
Jason then called his mom to let her know we were going to the hospital to get me checked out, but not to leave in any rush, since we would probably be going back home.
Both of us were pretty confident we would be heading back home, because this simply couldn't be labor.  Since we weren't in any particular rush or panic Jason calmly packed the car, fed Boots, and let him outside. He then hopped in the shower.  At this point I decided I wanted to shave my legs, since a lot of people would be up close and personal with them soon so I hopped in the tub.  I have to say, water birth might just be the way to go.  While I was in the warm bath my contractions were noticeably less painful.  I really didn't want to get out.  After getting out I ended up throwing up a little, which hinted to me that "okay maybe I am really in labor."  

The 13 minute break here was me shaving my legs
The 13 minute break was us getting into the car/me getting sick...I had multiple contractions in between this time.
When we were done getting ourselves together (around 3:00 am) we got into my car, only to realize my gas tank was empty.  Still thinking this wasn't real labor, we stopped to fill up the tank.
It was during our ride to the hospital I think we both started to think this might be the real deal.  I was becoming more serious and my contractions were becoming very very strong.  The motion of the car definitely didn't help.  Since it was the middle of the night we made it to the hospital in record time.  As we were walking in, I had to stop in the doorway and get on all fours as Jason rubbed my back through a contraction.  Things were getting a little harder.
We sat down at the registration desk for what felt like forever.  We had preregistered with the hospital, but I'm not convinced this actually cut down on any time.  We were asked lots of questions and I was asked to sign a number of documents.  In the middle of all of this I got sick again, right at the registration desk, luckily the lady handed me a bag just in time.  Then she called triage to let them know I was there...and then she and the triage nurse had a nice little chat about something entirely irrelevant to me being in labor.  I really had to put my deep breathing into action at this point in order not to loose my temper with this woman.  HELLO I'M IN LABOR...I JUST THREW UP AT YOUR DESK
Finally, we were escorted back to triage.  I was asked to lay on a bed.  This sounded like the worst idea ever.  I had no desire to lay flat on my back at this point.  Luckily (okay not really a good thing) my blood pressure was a little raised and the triage nurse asked me to roll onto my left side.  I definitely would have preferred not to be lying down at all...but the left was an improvement from being on my back.  And then there was another long line of questions about my medical history.  And I think (correct me if I'm wrong, dear) my only snap I made towards Jason occurred; I had asked him to rub my back during a contraction.  It felt really nice for a little bit but then out of nowhere it became the most irritating feeling ever and I grabbed his hand and threw it off me.  I felt bad after this.  I really wasn't annoyed with him, I was annoyed with the nurse and all of her questions about my life story.  But I knew I couldn't snap at her.  We had already been asked if we would like medication twice and had told both people, no thank you we will be doing this naturally.  This is like a curse in a hospital apparently.  Neither of the nurses said anything, but they made faces like "oh great, one of these." So I didn't want to come off as unreasonable or rude, especially if I was only 4cm dilated.  They would have no faith that I was going to make it through the rest of labor.  
After all the questioning, she moved down to check my dilation. 
"You're 7 cm dilated and his head is really low...I think your water has broke too..."
A look of panic shot across Jason's face.  He quickly text his mom "LEAVE NOW" and then called my mom to let her know the news.  The thing was, my mom was supposed to drive us to the hospital. Due to the way everything had progressed, we were a little out of whack.  He then text the group of people we had added to our phone group who wanted to be notified that we were in labor.  He told everyone, at the suggestion of the triage nurse, that it would probably be about 2 to 3 hours before we would start pushing.
The realization of how far progressed I was seemed to put a little more pep in the nurse's step.  She prepped my bed to move me, I guess she didn't want me walking to the L&D room.  Once we arrived to the room we were again asked if I wanted any pain medication.  We again graciously declined.  I went to the bathroom to try and empty my bladder, only to end up on the floor, again throwing up.  After throwing up three times I was so thirsty!  I went back into the room asking for ice chips.  Jason came over to me in the most loving way
"Dear, they said they have to hook you up to fluid IV because of your blood pressure and how far along you are.  I asked if we could do the hep lock instead, but they said you're too far along."
I tried to protest, this wasn't part of the plan!  I wanted a hep lock not an IV, but I also didn't have a lot of energy to make this request.  The nurses didn't seem real open to me walking around at this point and were prompting me to get in bed.  
Oh great...I get to lie down again?  Because that was sooooo comfortable.  I requested the bed be sat up to higher than a 45 degree angle rather than being flat.  They at least gave me that.  And then the saga of the IV began.  The first nurse stepped up to the plate.  She poked and poked and poked around to no avail.  I'm, of course, still having contractions, but having to stay in one position so that she could get the line in.  It is this point I became ever more grateful for all of the relaxation exercises we had practiced, for Jason's prompting and encouragement, and oddly enough for Jackie Warner.  That's right, the work out video personality.  I have a few of her DVDs and one of the sayings she often employs is "You can do anything for a minute."  This became my mantra.  I knew contractions shouldn't be lasting for much longer than a minute, so I told myself over and over "I can do anything for a minute."  It's amazing how much confidence I drew from this little line.  
All the while I'm still being poked.  At this point all I want (besides not being stuck in the bed) is ice chips. I had asked for some a number of times, but it felt like no one could hear me.  So, in what I though was a genius move, I told the nurse I was feeling dizzy.  Surely this would make her take my request for liquid more seriously.  Nope!  Instead she immediately lowered my bed to the flat position.  This sent me into some pretty terrible pains.  The contractions were so. much. worse. when I was flat.  I begged her to sit me back up and Jason did his best to advocate for me, but she insisted I had to be down here now until the IV was in.  THEN FIND A NURSE WHO IS CAPABLE OF DOING THIS.  I didn't actually yell this, only thought it.  Nurse number two started to take her turn trying to get my IV in.  No luck there either.  Finally, someone was brought in who decided to try my right arm and was able to get in the IV.  The same nurse who had lowered my bed then started to push down on the fetal monitor (aka push down on my stomach) right in the middle of a contraction. 
"Stop, ouch, stop please"
"What's hurting?"
That I actually said, okay yelled.  I had to reel it back in.  But at this point I was so frustrated with this nurse. Jason asked her to please wait to adjust the monitors until I was done having my contraction.  She agreed.  Thank you Jason!
Around this time I started to get the urge to push, and I think it had become obvious to the nurse and Jason.  She looked at me and said "darling, don't start pushing yet."
Hah.  Okay great I'll just hold the baby in for a bit longer.
I looked to Jason, "Where's Dr. Behan.  I want Dr. Behan to be here."  I knew that Dr. Behan would be a great advocate for me with the nurses.  He had previously reviewed and approved of my birth plan.
"He's on his way"
Next thing you know, Dr. Behan was in the room.  He walked over to a desk and lightheartedly recommended we change Zilla's name to Valentino...Valentino Jason to be exact.  He insisted it wasn't too late.  I was relieved to have my doctor there, knowing that even at 5 in the morning he was just as quirky as ever.  After we reassured him we would like to keep the name Zilla, he once again commented on how it's a good Irish name (said in a perfectly executed Irish accent).  He then came over to me and asked if I had brought a copy of my birth plan.  After writing and revising the thing about 10 times, we had forgotten it.
"That's okay.  Tell me if I remember correctly: you want to do self directed pushing in the upright position, you don't want an episiotomy, you would like direct skin to skin contact and to delay cord clamping.  Jason, you would like to cut the cord?"
Wow!  I can't express how blessed we were to have him as a doctor.  He has so many patients and yet somehow managed to remember specifics of our birth plan.
Jason hesitated a little.  "No, that's okay."
Me: "Dear are you sure?"
Dr. B: "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity with this child"
Jason: "Okay, yes, yes I'd like to cut it."
The nurse checked me:
"Okay you're 10 cm, it's time to push"
I was a little shocked to be honest.  Even though I was feeling the urge, I thought surely I couldn't be progressing this quickly!  My mom wasn't even there yet.

*Okay this is where I start describing the pushing part*
Next thing you know I was being sat up (finally) and the nurses were helping me hold my legs so I could be in as close to a squatted position while sitting as possible.  Dr. Behan took his place and they all looked to me to tell them when I was ready to push.
I have to say this was empowering and I'm so happy I included this in the birth plan (and for Dr. Behan insisting to the nurses that this was the way we were going to do this).  I could feel a contraction coming on and I knew it was time; I started my first push.  It was less than effective.  I think I was scared to actually bear down; it was all so real. We were about to have a baby!
Nurse: "Sweetie you're going to have to give us more than that"
Around this time my mom walked in the room.  It was so good to know she was there.
Nurse to my mom: "She just started pushing"
Mom: "Ask her if she wants me to come in"
I was so flooded with emotions and sensations at this point I didn't know my answer.  I felt so terrible that everything had gone so quickly and my mom hadn't gotten to be there for the laboring part, but Jason and I had previously discussed wanting it to be just the two of us during pushing and the delivery of our little son.
Nurse to me: "Look at me.  What do you want?  It's okay whatever the answer.  What do you want?"
Remember when I was so frustrated with this nurse?  At this point she became my best friend.  She reminded me that this was the birth of our son and she wanted it to be the experience I was hoping for.
Me: "No, no just Jason and me"
Nurse: "Would you like to use a mirror for pushing?"
Okay ladies (and gents, I suppose) when you first start thinking about labor and delivery the last thing you can ever imagine wanting is to see what's happening to your woman parts...or for your significant other to see.  I mean, we all want him to find us attractive again one day.  But, after hearing a friend of mine describe how the mirror had helped her and then someone else describing it to me as a biofeedback mechanism, I started to reconsider my position.  I am all about biofeedback and it's effectiveness in helping with stress management, chronic pain, mental health  etc.  Why not use it for birth? So I had decided that, yes, I wanted to at least try using the mirror and if it was too terrifying to see I could simply look away.
And then came the next contraction.  I knew I had to get serious this time.  I thought back to the Bradley book we had read and the pushing pattern recommended by the author.  I knew I needed to get in two to three good pushes during the contraction and that in between these pushes I needed to not relax entirely in order to keep forward progress.  So bear down I did.
Nurses and Jason: "Look, look there's his head.  You're doing great!"
I glanced over at the mirror.  Sure enough, there was the top of his head!  How encouraging to see how close I was!  I paused to get ready for another push, I saw his head retreat back.  "Don't completely relax" I reminded myself.  The mirror was proving to be useful already.  The contraction was subsiding
Nurse: "Try to get in one more push"
But I knew it wouldn't be effective.   I needed to take this opportunity to rest, otherwise I wouldn't have the needed strength for a good push during my next contraction.  Again, I can't say how beneficial I found self directed pushing along with the mirror.  Things were progressing so fast and so well!
Nurse: "Coming up it's going to start to hurt real bad.  It will probably burn.  Don't let this scare you, you have to push through it; it means your baby is just about here."
It's (almost) like she took a page from the Bradley book.  Reminding the mother how close she is to holding her baby is the ultimate motivator.  And, sure enough after a few rounds of pushing I could see his head really starting to come through.  And sure enough, it burned. Oh how it burned.
"It hurts it hurts it hurts.  Oh God!"
Everyone: "Keep going, you're doing great! He's so close, don't be scared!  Look look there's your baby, he's right there!"
Dr. B: "Soon I'm going to ask you to push slower and lighter to help prevent tearing.  You'll need to give me about a 1/18th of a push."
Even in the throws of some serious pain and pushing, I managed to laugh.  Only Dr. Behan would ask me to calibrate my pushing to 1/18th.
And this is where the mirror became invaluable.  As Dr. Behan began to take over coaching (don't worry this was also part of the birth plan for him to take over at this point) I carefully watched the mirror in order to see how hard I was pushing and slow down the crowning as best I could.  Next thing you know his head was out! WOW!  My first look at his little face!
Dr. B: "Alright just one more little push"
I didn't get the "little" part of that and gave out a final big push.  And he was out, immediately placed on my belly.  Jason was doing an expert job of multitasking, getting a picture of him on my stomach while celebrating with me and having a moment of pure adrenaline and joy.

  I can't even identify the emotion(s) I was feeling.  I think I was partly in shock because I remember Jason and the nurses telling me that he was on me and that I could reach down and hold him.  What a surreal experience.  As I reached down and felt the warm skin of the little being who had been inside me for 9 months I became ecstatic. He was finally here, in my arms.  All the pain of labor literally left my mind.  None of it mattered.  We were then allowed to just be together for the first time.  The three of us, our little family! 
After about 2 minutes, Dr. B informed Jason it was time to cut the cord.  He had waited long enough for the cord to stop pulsing and he handed Jason the scissors.

Zilla started to nestle his way down my chest and from all my reading and preparation I knew he was looking to feed.  The nurse helped me get him positioned and he latched on.  *This part might be too detailed for some* I am so amazed by the miracle of our bodies and the way in which they work so beautifully when we allow them to.  I had read how allowing the baby to breastfeed within the first hour of delivery can help your uterus contract and deliver the placenta.  Sure enough each time I felt him get a good suckle I could feel my uterus contract and a rush of blood.  Okay, it sounds a little gross and I'm sure it doesn't look pretty but I find it so amazing.  

As I lay there with him on my chest, I looked up at Jason who was gazing at our little son.  We smiled at each other and kissed.  It was the perfect moment. We had done this; we, through the grace of God, had created new life and here he was.
I can't say how long we were allowed to lay there, but eventually they were ready to weigh and measure him and asked to take him to the side.  At this point I realized Dr. B was still sitting at the end of the bed and I asked if I had ripped.  As it turned out, my last push to get the shoulders out did result in a small tear, but it was only a level 1 tear and definitely nothing compared to the "damage" that would have been done if I had opted for an episiotomy.  Still, Dr. B wanted to stitch it up.  
This is when I noticed how uncontrollably shaky my legs were.  I could not for the life of me make them stop and I kept apologizing to Dr. B for not being able to sit still as he worked.  He reassured me it was normal and not to worry about it.  I also took this opportunity to apologize to the nurse for anything I said during labor and delivery that wasn't kind.  She reassured me that I had nothing to apologize for. 
As all this was going on, Jason was watching as Zilla got weighed and measured and he got to put on his first diaper.  The first of many (many many many...). 

Zilla was then returned to my chest to continue skin to skin contact.  Everything had gone so well and I was so incredibly grateful. 
At this point my mom, sister, and bro in law were invited back into the room to meet Zilla.  My Aunt Carol also got to come back for a little while.  Everything seemed to fly by at this point.  They came in and got to see his little face for a bit and then had to leave as I was about to make my first attempt at going to the bathroom post delivery. 
First of all, my legs were still violently shaking.  I felt so immobile and like I would never regain the ability to walk without assistance.  Once we finally made it to the bathroom I decided it was impossible to relax enough to allow anything to happen.  Heaven knows I wasn't going to push in any way in order to get something going.  I decided at this moment I would never push again.  Not to mention, I was feeling really dehydrated and was pretty sure there wasn't anything for me to expel.  
We were then prepped to make our way to the maternity area.  
Shift change occurred at some point during all of this and a new nurse had taken over.  She handed me two pills.
Nurse: "These are for your pain."
Me: "What are they?"
Nurse: "They're pain medication"  ...really?
Me: "Okay, but what are they?"
Nurse (looking surprisingly annoyed that I was questioning what substance she was recommending I put in my body): "Motrin and a percocet"
Me: "Okay well I'd prefer to keep pain interventions to a minimum"
Later she told me: "I've had two babies naturally and two with an epidural.  Next time just take the medication."
At this point, I was very happy my L&D had gone so quickly and she wasn't there during that part.  I don't think she would have been so open to my desire to do this naturally.  
I was moved to a wheelchair and we were moved on to the recovery area where we spent our first three days as a family.  We were blessed to be visited by many friends and family and to have some wonderful nurses attend to us during our time there.  

We were blessed to have such a smooth labor and delivery.  I am grateful for all the prayers which have been offered up for us during pregnancy and the first few weeks of our little man's life.  Going forward I will try to update about the first few weeks and then move onto monthly updates.  But I'll be honest.  This motherhood thing is hard work (duh) and my free time is limited.

With lots of love
The VrlyFries 

Thoughts about our birth plan and labor and delivery:

1) Even though our birth went far quicker than we ever could have imagined I am so grateful we took the time to create a birth plan.  The process of making a birth plan helped me to become informed about all of the options and potential procedures which could occur during L&D.  Of course, this means going a step beyond just checking off boxes on a website.  If you're creating a birth plan, make sure you know what each of the things you are marking or writing down means.  Being informed is key to having the birth you want.  Of course there are things you can't control, but there are so many things you do have control over and there's no reason you should just hand off these decisions to your nurses and doctor.  Whether you choose medicated or natural birth doesn't matter, I'm just a big proponent of knowing what's going on as it happens.  

2) Again, because our birth went so fast we didn't get to employ all of our relaxation techniques to their fullest extent...there was no lying on my side for hours as Jason rubbed my back.  However, in the short time I was in labor and pushing I definitely utilized a number of the things we had researched.  Breathing techniques were the most pervasive.  Using deep breaths and not letting myself start using short sharp breaths helped me stay calm throughout as well as helped me concentrate on what was really going on with my body and not just the pain.  It's pain with a purpose, and that's important to recognize.  I also never got to use the Rosaries or Chaplets I had saved on my phone during labor.  But I have to believe that the many times I practiced relaxing and meditating with these prayers helped prepare me for birth and give me a sense of calm about the whole thing leading up to labor day.  By the time it arrived, I was no longer fearing the pain or the unknown.  I was excited and had a real feeling of peace.  More importantly, I believe in the power of prayer and am confident that Mary was interceding for us throughout this whole process. The birthing/labor positions were also extremely beneficial during the time I labored at home.  Again, I didn't get to utilize them for long, but when I was using them I can definitely see how they are far better than sitting or lying in a bed for hours.

3) Hospital staff is not accustomed to people choosing a natural birth.  During my tour of the hospital my guide said so herself.  A vast majority of women come in ready for their epidural.  And that's okay.  But, it does mean if you are wanting natural you need to come in prepared, with a support person, and feeling assertive and sure of yourself.  And also not being too on the defensive.  I genuinely tried to remain cordial and patient with the nurses in order to create a teamwork environment rather than hostile.  You may just be lucky enough to get a nurse who is supportive of natural birth.  This blog is written by one such nurse and very informative for anyone seeking a natural birth in the hospital.

4)  I've already started thinking about our next L&D experience.  I have to say I'm really thinking about a home birth; particularly a water birth.  I felt so relaxed and comfortable while I was in the shower, I can see how this idea is enticing for many women.  Of course, this is a conversation Jason and I need to discuss much further, but it's definitely on my mind.

*I'm adding more thoughts as they come to me*

5) Our delivery went far faster than the average birth, especially for him being our first.  This likely played a role in how smoothly everything went.  There's no telling how this story would have gone if I had a 30 hour L&D.  I think it's important to note that the interventions I chose to turn down I only chose to do so with the understanding that my pregnancy and L&D were progressing safely.  Most of these interventions represent good advances in medicine that have helped to reduce the mortality rate among mothers and babies and that is wonderful!  Also, it's a personal choice for each woman as to how she envisions her L&D.  I have heard wonderful stories about women receiving an epidural and having a very relaxing L&D where they were able to happily and calmly bring their little one into the world.  

6) So why then did I want natural?  Well, like I've posted about before, I'm a control nut and I felt that natural birth allowed me to have the greatest amount of control possible during an event where so much is in God's hands and on God's time.  Second, I did a lot of research and reading about the side effects of many of the interventions.  After this, I knew that if my L&D went smoothly I wanted to avoid these effects for both me and our son.  This research started out with me reading "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding".  I've always wanted to breastfeed and thus learning about the how's was an important part of preparation for motherhood for me.  This book had quite a bit of information about how various interventions may affect the critical early stages of breastfeeding.

7) As important as I believe preparing for L&D is, I want to encourage mothers to also prepare for what comes after: motherhood.  Kind of like your wedding day...the wedding is a momentous occasion and extremely important, but it is only one day.  Preparing for the marriage is critical for a lasting relationship.  In a similar way, L&D is one (or two or three) day(s) but motherhood is a lifetime.  Not only that, but motherhood is hard work.  Just the first few weeks you are dealing with all kinds of hormonal shifts, sleep deprivation, and learning how to care for this new life.  Take advantage of your friends and family who have experience in this area.  Accept every offer from people to cook you meals and help with chores.  Read books about how to bathe/change/burp your baby so that you can go into it with some form of confidence.  No matter how your L&D happens, in the end the most important part is that you have a beautiful new little addition to your family! 


  1. Oh, Becca! How wonderful & funny!!! I laughed so hard, especially when you decided to shave your legs! I think you & I both have the same kind of labor pains. I didn't recognize mine with any of my children, until it was close to the end! I loved that you shared this beautiful story with us :) So happy for you & Jason!!! Aidan is amazing!!!

  2. I was finally able to make it all the way through! The middle picture of you first holding Aidan makes me cry every time. I even cried when I was explaining it to Jason. I'm so glad everything went well for yall! Jason and I have a lot to learn from all of the prep work yall did!

  3. Such a beautiful delivery! So, kind of random, but I nominated you for a Liebster Award. A friend did it for my blog so I'm nominating you :) It's a fun little post to do when you have time! Hope you and the family are doing well and check out my last post to see what the Award is about :) Also, not sure if you have it, but my new blogsite is thesideoflove.com Hugs!