Sunday, September 18, 2011
Lucy Marie has a birth story that has no photos of labor, the birth, or immediately after the birth, unlike my first two babies. Each labor and birth has certainly been different. This one needs to be written before I forget the details since I don't have immediate photos! This birth is also the one for which I feel the most gratitude to God for a safe and smooth delivery. I'm so thankful for the loving support of my husband and for his quick thinking and calm demeanor - without him, I don't know that I could have done this on my own! I am very fortunate that all my labors have been uncomplicated thus far, but in this one, it was certainly an important factor since Lucy was inadvertently born here at home!
For those who know me well, you may have known that I did desire a homebirth, just to avoid hospital interventions and because my first two births went so smoothly. Cecilia was needlessly separated from me for a few hours after her birth, and I very much wanted to avoid that happening again! However, I would only consider a homebirth with a midwife I trusted, one who had lots of experience and who I had heard good things about from friends. Well, do you know what a homebirth midwife who fits that description costs? $3000! Insurance doesn't cover a cent of it since it is technically illegal to be a homebirth midwife in the state of Georgia. A hospital birth, on the other hand, costs $750 for labor and delivery on our insurance plan, and the hospital stay costs have come out around maybe $500 for the first two births. So, I resigned myself to a third hospital birth, reassured by Chris's reminders that my first two labors went smoothly and that we could likely avoid most interventions this time as well. I certainly would not plan to have an unattended homebirth... even with no complications during pregnancy, I wanted to have somebody there who'd had plenty of experience attending many births and who could help if any problems did arise. So I certainly did not intend for Lucy to be born with only my husband, my mother, and our older children in the house!
Labor began around 6:20 that morning with strong but very tolerable contractions about every ten minutes. I waited until just after 7:00 before calling my mom to tell her that it seemed like real labor, so she could come on up to be with the girls while labor got harder and then when we went to the hospital. Chris made our breakfast, and I ate a fried egg and some toast with strawberry jelly. I spilled some runny egg yolk on my placemat... just a random tidbit in the story. I found myself having to pause with the contractions through breakfast and put my head down and stop talking. The contractions began coming closer together at this time, too. After breakfast, I laid down for awhile to see if they would keep coming at the same rate... and they slowed down. They began coming every ten, sometimes every twelve minutes apart. So we decided at this point that we didn't need to take the girls to the neighbors' house and could wait for my mom to arrive.
Once my mom got here around 10:00, Chris encouraged me to get up since the contractions were not getting any closer together after an hour of laying still. They were getting harder to get through because they were long - a minute and a half and more - but still ten minutes apart. So I got up and walked to the living room with Chris's help. The contractions started coming much closer together... about every four to six minutes. However, they were shorter now... still intense, but lasting only 40 seconds to a minute each. After an hour of being up, I laid down again, thinking that if they kept coming then we'd be leaving for the hospital. But again, they slowed to coming every nine to ten minutes.. I only had seven contractions over the entire 11:00 hour. They were longer again, some around two minutes, and I was entering into the mindset of not being able to endure any more... they were extremely painful at this point and difficult to relax through. I wanted to go to the hospital, but Chris reminded me that the contractions were coming pretty far apart still and we didn't want to go too early. My water hadn't broken, and I needed to get back up so labor could progress and then we could go. My mind was confused... I had the head knowledge that when contractions are coming ten minutes apart, then it's too early... but then why was I feeling like giving up and that I couldn't do this any more (which is an emotional sign that you're getting toward the end)? I was really discouraged that the contractions were spaced out so far, because it seemed like a lot of pain for little progress (oh, but little did I know!). Chris had been wiping my forehead with a cool wet washcloth between contractions, as I was feeling very warm with some of them. I knew I should get up to help things along, but I was actually resting and dozing between contractions and was hesitant to move. Never did I express the desire to just stay home, which many women say when they are going through the hardest part of labor, shortly before the pushing stage of labor... but looking back, maybe this reluctance to move was a sign.
Our contraction log book... same notebook Chris used to record things during Cecilia's labor. He got it at a conference for work, and other than that, I think we've only used it for recording labor contractions!
Once I did get up shortly after noon, contractions began coming closer together again, and they were shorter again as well... most were now lasting around a minute each. They were getting to be around every five minutes apart. I was sitting up on the edge of the bed and leaning back on Chris, who was sitting behind me to support me as I tried to relax and melt back into his arms with each contraction... relaxing my body was very difficult at this point. Chris had gotten me some peanut butter crackers and was encouraging me to eat some and take sips of water... During Caroline's labor, I didn't want to eat hardly anything, and since it was a long labor, I didn't have much energy by the end and even blacked out briefly when I first stood up after her birth. We wanted to avoid that again! So I ate and sipped between contractions, and my mom was making macaroni and cheese for the girls. She was making enough for Chris and herself as well so he could eat something before we left for the hospital.
So, having been through Bradley Method childbirth classes before Caroline's birth (and having reviewed our books and materials over the past few weeks), we knew the things we should be looking for in deciding when to leave for the hospital. These classes are very thorough, lasting 12 weeks, and they are also referred to as "husband-coached childbirth," involving the husbands in aiding their wives through labor. We knew we were seeing some of the signs: the self-doubt I was expressing, for instance. However, another suggestion is to wait for 4-1-1: contractions every four minutes, lasting at least one minute each, and coming consistently for an hour. We'd almost met that before when they were coming about every five minutes, until I laid down and they spaced back out. In any event, I hoped that we were getting close!
Our childbirth books which we'd been reviewing over the past few weeks... such a good thing to have had this kind of information and a husband who was willing and able to be involved to this degree! Chris has been instrumental in each one of our babies' births.
After about 45 minutes, Chris reminded me to use the bathroom - one of the many jobs of the labor coach, as it is an important thing to do! And, as other moms who have done this before may be able to relate, the position when sitting on a toilet can help labor to progress since it helps to open up the pelvis.
Well, my pelvis had apparently already opened up... so that's why those last few contractions while sitting up in bed were being felt down through my outer thighs, I realize in retrospect (at the time, all I could say was, "These are weird, Chris, my legs are hurting and it doesn't feel right!"). After a few contractions while on the toilet, I broke down and said, "I'm so scared we're not going to make it to the hospital!" Chris says it was just about this time he was thinking we needed to leave. Our bag was already packed, of course (had been for two weeks!) and we just needed to put my wallet and phone in, along with the white noise machine (in an attempt to get some rest in the hospital - ha!). Since my water hadn't broken, I think we both thought I was still going through transition and had a bit more time. Often there is also a pause of many minutes between labor contractions and pushing contractions. But suddenly, I felt the urge to push and told Chris. He was saying for me to get up so we could leave, but I said I was going to give a small push (this may be too much information for some, but if you are a woman who has given birth, you probably remember that the urge to push in labor feels similar to pushing when using the toilet, and so my giving a small push was hoping to be able to get anything out before getting off the toilet!). With the small push I gave, I knew it was an actual pushing urge because I began to feel her head ready to emerge, and I said, "The baby's head is there, she's coming!!!" This was the point at which all fear left me and instinct totally kicked in... the baby was going to be born, and we just had to let her come!
So Chris had me stand up and he could tell the baby's head was right there too... as I stood up, I remember grabbing and pulling up on the toilet paper roll and towel rod, both of which I pulled off the wall... I had actually done that to the towel rod a few times already by using it to support myself with my back pain during pregnancy! Chris said I had planted my feet and wasn't able to move, and apparently I cried out, "I can't walk!" Chris had gotten me up so the baby wouldn't be born in the toilet, but his next step was to get me into an actual pushing position so I wasn't just standing in the bathroom. As I took a couple steps into our bedroom, I felt the totally uncontrollable urge to push, and as I got down on my hands and knees, I could feel the baby's head crowning and the instant relief that came with it as I gave an effortless push. As I got down on the floor, I grabbed the comforter from the foot of our bed and pulled it down under my chest and between my legs so there was something other than the rug and hardwood floor... of course, Chris was behind me ready to catch the baby, but having the comforter there gave some padding in case it was needed (and ended up being great for me to sit back on after she was born).
My mom heard that something was up by this point and came down the hall to see what was going on... she looked in and Chris called to her, "The baby's coming," and I added, "Call 911!" Her response as she rushed back down the hall was, "I told you not to wait too long!!!" Yes, wasn't that what everybody had been telling us, including ourselves? So I pushed Lucy's head out (she was facing my left leg, away from Chris, who was on the right side of me), and one more push after that and she was out - in an intact bag of waters, of course, since the water never broke. This is a relatively rare occurrence and surprised me: the water broke with Caroline while I was pushing (but I pushed for almost an hour and a half with her), and it broke early on with Cecilia, kickstarting my short period of active labor before pushing for about 20 minutes to get her out. This time, pushing lasted about two minutes! And I think I only pushed four times, one of which was a weak "practice" push.
Chris was holding Lucy still in the bag of waters, looking to see if there was a spot where it had begun to tear. He said it was like a balloon stretched around her, and the amniotic fluid was down in the bottom of it as he held her. My mom was in the doorway on the phone with 911, and after giving them our address, she asked, "Is she breathing?" I had felt such relief at pushing her out that I felt no worry, but then I started asking, "Is she okay???" I think Chris asked if he should be breaking the water, and my mom said, "Yes," and the next thing I knew, Chris was passing a sputtering baby under me and up onto my chest as I leaned back. She was making little coughing sounds as she took her first breaths... Chris had pulled the sac off and had tilted her upside down and tapped her back, and she began breathing. She was totally covered in vernix, which I began rubbing into her skin as I held her close to warm her. My mom brought a couple towels to drape over her to keep her warm and dry her on me. She was crying a bit, not loudly, but in a way that we knew her breathing was fine. At the moment I held her and heard the snuffling noises, I knew everything was okay. The paramedics arrived just a few minutes after she was born... two ambulances and five paramedics had come because they had all been just down the street eating at a local buffet restaurant! The apparently told the restaurant staff, "Don't worry, we'll come back and eat when we're done!"
Caroline and Cecilia had been eating lunch while all this happened, my mom later told me. She said they were wondering about what was going on, so she told them to just wait in the living room... then she had them go out on the porch and wait for the ambulance and wave when they saw it coming, which they enjoyed doing, apparently.
The cord had stopped pulsing, so one of the paramedics clamped it, and Chris cut it with a knife-like tool which they had. They helped dry her a bit more and then helped me stand up with Lucy and get onto a stretcher they had brought into the hallway. Another warning about semi-graphic childbirth details here... it sure feels weird to walk with an umbillical cord hanging out of you! I didn't look back at the comforter... all I'd seen was a spot of blood on the wall which must have been on Chris's hand or something. But my mom's later words to me as I talked on the phone to her from the hospital were, "Erin, that comforter is shot. I'm buying you a new one!"
I had the presence of mind to ask somebody to grab a hat for Lucy as we were headed down the hall. Chris found the Pooh Bear hat I described and we put it on her head to help keep her warm. Caroline and Cecilia had been down the hall the whole time, and I got to see them briefly and say that the baby just came so fast, and that we'd be going to the hospital so we could get checked out. The girls got a brief glimpse of their baby sister and said hi to her. After we left, my mom said Caroline got upset and was crying that the baby didn't wait until we went to the hospital... she likes things to happen in the way we are expecting them to happen. Cecilia, on the other hand, simply said, "But she just came too fast!"
Lucy gets checked out by the nurses and NICU staff right there next to me in the labor and delivery room.
So Lucy got to take her first car ride at about 15-ish minutes old in the back of an ambulance on my chest, covered up and making her first attempts at nursing. Chris grabbed our bag and last few things we needed and rode up front. The paramedics helped me keep blankets over Lucy... they'd swapped out the wet towels in our house for some blankets. They also put a huge piece of foil over the blankets to help insulate her. We even had the siren on and everything... Chris said at one point they hit 60 mph on our 40 mph main road to the hospital! There was no emergency, but I guess they just wanted to get us there quickly just in case (and because they wanted to go back to lunch, maybe? ;).
They took us in through the emergency entrance and up to maternity, where they'd been having a quiet day despite the fact that it was a Monday and there would be a full moon that night! We went straight down the hall into a labor and delivery room, where they could check us out. They checked Lucy's vitals while she was still on me... we'd done a good job keeping her warm because her temp was 97.5. I had been rubbing her feet under the blankets the whole ride to the hospital. She had looked a little purple at birth and had pinked up nicely on the ride, but she began looking a little purple again, and her oxygenation levels were slightly low, so they put her under a warmer in the room there with us and checked her out, gave her a brief breath of oxygen, and she was back on my chest after about ten or so minutes of them checking her out. All done in the room... the hospital has made some great changes to do as much as possible in the rooms and to keep mothers and babies together. I was very impressed with how they did this! They didn't even weigh her yet at this point... they said they could do it - in the room - whenever we were ready. Lucy was nursing again, so we waited until she had gotten a good long time on me before checking her weight and length: 7 lbs. 7.2 oz. and 20.5 inches long. By this time we had looked over her thoroughly and I was commenting on her hair - it appeared to be light brown with maybe a bit of red in it, lighter than our first two babies' hair had been at birth.
One of the OBs from my practice had come in by this time and was sitting around waiting for the placenta... he joked when he got in the room that he was worn out because he wasn't used to running, ha ha (he's great at making deadpan jokes... when a friend of mine gave birth, he said in a monotone voice as he placed her son in her arms, "Oh, look, it's a baby."). And here's a part that those who are squeamish about blood and birth details may want to skip, so you have been warned... The OB helped with the placenta delivery and then checked me... no tears at all! This is the first time, because I had torn somewhat badly with my first birth (they had said it was a first degree tear but borderline on being 2nd degree), and then it was repaired somewhat badly, and with the second birth we knew it would tear at least slightly in the area where it hadn't been totally repaired. But this time, nothing! Very brief pushing stage on hands and knees seems to be the way to go for me! Chris had said he didn't notice any tearing when she was born, and the doctor was able to confirm that. He said, "Only papercuts," meaning minor abrasions. I must say that this recovery has been so much easier, too. No swelling, only minor irritation rather than pain. Also, for what it's worth, there has been less bleeding this time around... I am now at almost a week since the birth. Of course the uterine contractions which work to shrink the uterus back to its normal size were painful, as they are supposed to be (lets you know they're working right!)... apparently they get a little stronger with each birth. But even those have subsided now. There is just an achy feeling, particularly after I have been laying down all night.
Another thing which I am sure eased our recovery was the fact that we had gotten sleep the night before! Chris and I went to bed around 11ish and slept until 6:15ish when labor began... with the past births, we'd not gotten much sleep at all, and it really wiped us out compared to this time. It was such a nice change to be in my postpartum room in the hospital a few hours after the birth, looking out the window at a gorgeous, clear blue sky... what a beautiful day to be born, and on the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary, from whom Lucy's middle name comes. She was actually born on her due date - imagine that!
So, the changes being made in this hospital are great... along with the things I already mentioned, they were switching over to having mother-baby nurses, meaning one nurse for each pair rather than a separate nurse for the baby than the mother. This is brand-new, and so at one point I did have a separate baby nurse coming in every two hours all night to check Lucy's temperature and skin color... and the lab tech came in at 4am saying, "Good morning!" Morning??? Ha! But the nurses were cheerful and helpful, and overall we had a happy stay. But it's almost impossible to get any rest in a hospital, so we were hoping to check out after 24 hours.
Lucy was able to be checked by the pediatrician in the morning - Chris took her to the nursery where they like to do their checks. All looked great with her, and she said we could check out after 1:00 as long as Lucy urinated before then, which she did. The nurses clipped her umbillical stump a little shorter... it was kind of long and had a huge clamp because that's the kind the paramedics carry in the ambulance. So the nurse tied it off with string instead of putting on another clamp since we'd be going home soon.
the whole family!
My mom brought the older girls to visit us later in the afternoon. They stopped at Kroger and got balloons and a beautiful bouquet of flowers. They'd had fun letting Gramma do their hair with new hairbands, and Cecilia told me that Gramma put our comforter in the bathtub to soak... which didn't help, but oh, well! They brought Arby's for Chris, since he hadn't eaten much... although we did break out our snacks as soon as we were in the labor and delivery room getting checked: orange juice, granola bars, crackers (both peanut butter and cheese), and that yummy True North nut cluster trail mix stuff... one of the nurses seemed amused that we'd brought our own snacks! Having only delivered at night before (when no meals are served in the hospital!), we definitely had food ready in our bag! Anyway, my mom brought me an Arby's sandwich as well, even though I got dinner from the hospital food service. Giving birth takes a lot of energy, so I saved my Arby's sandwich for an evening snack, since dinner comes around 5:30 in the hospital. Chris rode back home with my mom to get his car, since he hadn't brought it!
The next day, Gramma and the girls came to visit again, and Grampa and Gran and Grandad came to visit us and meet Lucy too. I took a shower shortly before they came... I waited a long time this time, having read more on birth in recent years. Did you know that when the baby is placed on the mother's abdomen after birth, the amniotic fluid gets on the mother's skin, and the baby is more comfortable there with the familiar smell... and it helps also to postpone the bathing of the infant. So Lucy didn't have a bath in the hospital at all... in fact, we finally bathed her on Saturday here at home, when she was five days old.
Looking back, I am so grateful for a smooth birth and that even though it didn't go according to plan, we are healthy and safe and happy, and we were able to have another natural birth, even if it was in a different way! Baby Lucy was born in an intact bag of waters for a reason, I think: it kept her safe and secure for her speedy arrival into the world, and it kept her umbillical cord where it needed to be. Chris and I had been praying for strength for a good labor and a happy delivery for Lucy, just as we did for our other children while pregnant with them.
I had been reading a book to the older girls during the pregnancy, and Cecilia in particular was fascinated with it. It is called Angel in the Waters and is a beautiful pro-life children's story which tells about the baby growing from the beginning as a teeny baby until the birth, and then beginning life on the outside of the womb. The baby's guardian angel is with him throughout the story, right from conception. The book keeps mentioning that the angel is there in the waters with the baby, and then when labor is occurring, the baby is sad because the waters all left. The baby finds that after being born, his angel is still there with him. I thought it was neat how Lucy kept the waters with her, cushioning her through the delivery, and her guardian angel was right there with her, watching over and protecting her!
I am so grateful for my wonderful husband who helped us through this amazingly - he kept his cool and acted in a way that was perfect, like he knew exactly what to do (and he did!). His calm confidence helped me tremendously. I'm so glad we had both been through intensive childbirth education and that Chris was so involved in it. We'd even learned about preparing for emergency childbirth, and while we'd put towels and blankets in the car "just in case," we hadn't anticipated this! And while I wouldn't recommend planning to do it this way, there is something so incredible about having the man you love single-handedly bringing your child from the womb to the world (well, okay, Lucy and I helped too ;). He brought her out, removed the sac, and helped her take her very first breath of air before placing her on my belly, wet and tiny and snuffling. So in this week after Lucy's birth, I'm just overcome with love for her Daddy each time I look at him and when I see him interacting with his third baby girl. I'm going to cry when he has to go back to work in the morning! Lucy will grow up knowing the story of her birth and be smitten with her Daddy! I think he's going to write his own version of the birth story as well - which is good since I am not always an expert at remembering details! We had a very restful week at home... well, Wednesday through Sunday on our own, getting used to life as a family of five with one being a tiny newborn. We took it easy and just enjoyed all being together, having lunch together on the patio and getting some time in this beautiful weather! Lucy Marie, you picked a great week to be born!
our flowers back at home, gracing our table as a centerpiece for as long as they will last!
Giving my third baby a kiss on her tiny soft head