Saturday, April 7

A story about birth

Here's a little story about one not-so-little boy's terrestrial debut and how his mom fared.

I know, I know, it's called "false labor" or "pre-labor" or "Braxton-Hicks" and it's not technically labor-labor, but still. My contractions were so frequent and so annoying that I'm calling this the longest labor on the record books -- 2 months at least! Crazy contractions from the beginning of February were basically preventing me from moving in most functional ways. Add that to an increasingly-willful two-year-old and a husband working pretty much any time he wasn't sleeping, and I was at the end of my sanity string.

I was sure Baby Surprise (we didn't know the gender) would come early since I had hardly any pre-labor with Maren and she was a few days early. Whereas with Maren I was really in no hurry to have my life turned upside-down and greatly in denial about the onset of labor, this time I felt like Baby couldn't come soon enough and I spent most of March thinking surely tonight was the night.  But when I hit my due date of March 30 and I was dilated to a whopping ZERO, I gave up on ever giving birth and resigned myself to a state of permanent pregnancy.

Spoiler alert: the pregnancy DID eventually end! But before we cut to the chase, I want to display the awesome henna tattoos my sister did on my belly. The first one wore off too fast, so she did another last Saturday. She loves doing it and they look really cool!

Henna skills

After washing off the henna -- it came out really light

The second one. Nice paisleys!

Okay, now for the story. I tried to keep it short but, well, brevity is not my strong point.

Wednesday night around 10:00 the show started, though I was skeptical since I had been expecting the show to start almost every night for a month. I didn't want to make my mom drive 45 minutes in the middle of the night only to send her home. So I waited, and for the first time the contractions got worse instead of better. Finally I was convinced that this was the real deal!

We called my mom at about 12:15 in the a.m. and she arrived shortly after 1:00. By this time Mark had the car packed and I was vocalizing and swaying through the contractions. For a while I would lean on the washing machine and sway my hips. Later I would kneel at the bed and bite down on a rag during the contractions. During each contraction, I focused on relaxing my face and repeating in my mind, "Every contraction ends. Every contraction ends." Mark had called the hospital to request the room big enough for the new inflatable tub. No luck; it was occupied. At this point I thought, there is no way I can do this without meds if I have no tub. My resolve to go epidural-free weakened a little.

I knelt in the back seat of the car for the 10 minute drive to the hospital. Fortunately we hit all green lights because every bump and turn and stop and gear shift was agony. I felt like were in the parking garage forever. Some random hospital employees helped carry our stuff and I had to make several rather loud stops for contractions. Good thing it was the middle of the night so I avoided an audience.

At around 1:30 I was dilated to a 6. (Hurray!) They moved me from triage to an L&D room -- it wasn't big enough for the inflatable tub, but I was relieved to find that it did have a tub in the bathroom. It wasn't any bigger than a standard bathtub, but I was just glad to have it. They filled it up, stuck some waterproof wireless monitors on my belly (these are awesome!), and I got in.

Ahhhhhh...pain free! Contractions no longer hurt at all! I asked for a book and a glass of juice and just hung out for a few hours.


Yeah right!

Things were definitely painful, but the water took the edge off. I can't explain it. Because of the shape of the tub, the only comfortable position was kneeling with my ankles crossed and leaning over the edge. Mark sat on one side for a while and gently rubbed my back during contractions. Later he got a stool and sat in front of me. Contractions were getting a lot stronger and I was trying to keep my vocalizing low.  I kept reminding myself that every contraction ends and tried to keep my face relaxed.

This was totally different than it had been with Maren. During that labor, I felt like the pain was taking me over and I felt fear that it would never end. I felt like I didn't know what was going on, that it was taking too long, and wondered whether it was normal. I needed so much more attention -- Mark at my head, nurses rubbing my back, etc. Granted it was a LOT longer, but this time I didn't really need anyone besides Mark sitting there. The midwife just hung out outside the bathroom and the nurse popped her head in every once in a while. Despite the pain, I felt very calm. Having been through it once and survived, I knew it would end and that I wouldn't feel this pain anymore. I tried to focus on two specific memories of Maren's birth: the indescribable relief of having her finally out, and the calm, pain-free ride home from the birth center with her in the car seat, the ordeal over with. It WOULD end.

I started feeling the urge to push surprisingly soon. The midwife said I was at an 8 -- a little early for pushing, but I couldn't help it. I developed a new routine where during each contraction I would lean my arms out of the tub and stick my fingers under the tongues of Mark's sneakers and pull as hard as I could while I moaned and grunted. Mark told me later he considered what would happen if I went suddenly crazy and threw him off the stool (didn't happen). I tried to keep the grunting in control (so I wouldn't have a sore throat like last time), but I couldn't help it. Through a few contractions, I did try to distract myself by making the weirdest grunting noises I could, or making up little rhythms. Just a little diversion in my head.

When I was checked again and still at an 8, there was a bit of discouragement that sneaked in and started to nibble at the fringes of my mind. I remembered how I had been stuck at an 8 for several hours with Maren and how that just about did me in. But I forced myself to not think like that because I couldn't afford to get discouraged. And there was no need. Before long I was at a 9, and then pop! My water broke.

I told the midwife that my water had broken (though I contemplated not telling her), and she told me to get out of the tub. (Hospital policy is that you can labor in the tub but you can't deliver in it.) I had decided that I didn't want to get out of the tub, so I told her that I couldn't move -- which was mostly true. I started pushing, and they tried to get me out. I knew they weren't going to drag me out, so I just kept saying no. Finally the midwife said, "We'll have to drain the water then." In my head I answered, "Dang it!" but knew I had really no recourse at that point and it wasn't worth fighting.

There were two handicap bars mounted horizontally on the wall of the tub, and I pulled myself up into a squatting position and hung on those bars while I pushed, and pushed, and pushed. Man, pushing is HARD WORK! It's a different kind of pain from contractions -- a more productive pain -- but it is absolutely exhausting. Somewhere in my primal self there was some superhuman strength, and I held myself up on those bars for 15 minutes and pushed. I tried to hold my breath and concentrate my energy on pushing, but a few times I couldn't help but let out these crazy primitive roars. It was not the best position to be supporting myself in, and a few times I thought I would collapse, but I really had no choice but to stay there. I kept focusing on the immediate relief of getting the baby out. Jill, the midwife, leaned into the tub to support my perineum and keep an eye on things. I felt a bit of relief and asked if the baby was out. Jill answered that the head was out, and I yelled, "get the rest of it out!" And then -- whoop -- baby was out and they were handing it to me. It was just like I remembered, slimy and slippery, covered in blood and vernix. This might sound gross and certainly weird, but this is my absolute favorite part. I love how slimy they are.

I sat and held the baby. The nurse said, "Do you want to know the gender?" And I thought, Give me a second, woman! Labor is so exhausting that you just want a minute to let the relief sink in. I said no, I wanted to check for myself, and I rested for a few more minutes. Then I checked and we had -- a boy! I was shocked. I though for sure I'd be looking at another girl, and I spent the next 36 hours voicing this surprise at random intervals.

Anyway, little Andrew showed up at 4:08 a.m. and weighed in at 8 lbs 15 oz! If we had weighed him before he pooped, he might have topped 9 lbs. No wonder pushing was so hard! But I was only in labor for 6 hours, and just over two of those hours at the hospital. THIS is the way to do it. I didn't need much support, I felt calm and in control, and overall I felt like a champion. I was so pleased with how it all happened, and unlike last time, I thought, I could do this again. (Although...third trimester nearly did me in. I'm not really keen on doing THAT part again.)

Within hours my arms and legs were so sore that I could barely lift my liter mug of full of water. I must have had some crazy adrenaline woman strength to suspend myself from those bars for so long. Every muscle group from my neck to my ankles (aside from the non-existent abdominals) absolutely ached. I needed help just to lift myself out of bed. It was annoying to be unable to move, but very satisfying to think that I pulled that off.

So if I had to sum up labor in a series of pictures, it would look like this:

It was a good experience. Thank you, Maren, for breaking me in! This second labor much better.

Here's some hospital commentary for anyone interested. If not, just skip to the pictures.  The main reason I opted for a hospital is cost. Because we Mark works at University Hospital, our insurance covered almost everything. There are a handful of birth centers in Salt Lake, but only one of them takes insurance, and I wasn't thrilled about the lone midwife who ran that place. UH is also the only "Baby Friendly" hospital in Utah, and they have a birth care practice run by midwives (one of whom I met volunteering at the birth center in Texas). I was impressed with their philosophy and satisfied that they would support the experience I was looking for.

Overall, it was fine. I didn't need much support at all, and despite feeling a little annoyed at hospital policies, everything was fine. I will say that it was VERY annoying the next day to have a billion people poking their heads in my room every thirty minutes. The nurse needs to feel your belly. The aide needs to take your vitals. The pediatric team needs to evaluate the baby. The vital records lady wants to know if you've filled out the birth certificate yet. Food service is dropping off breakfast. Oh, time to feel your abdomen again! I understand that all these people have very specialized jobs, but it made it tough to get any rest. I did love the reclining bed though. That was really nice for someone who could barely move.

Anyway, here are some pictures of the little man.


Maren's introduction today couldn't have gone better. She giggled with delight about Baby Andrew and asked to "hold it." Then she tried to share every toy she could find with him. It was lovely.

No-neck is not the most flattering newborn angle.

Blurry kiss picture

So there you have it. Welcome to the world, little Andrew! You have smitten everyone you've met, including your big sister (who you resemble quite a bit).


Jaelynn said...

Thanks for posting this! Love to read about your experiences. He's adorable. Great sibling pics. And the henna tattoos are so much fun.

Lauren said...

Yay! Thank you so much for sharing your story! I laughed at the part where you said no to getting out of the tub--good for you. Pushing in that position was probably the best way to get a nearly 9 pounder out! I'm so happy you had a great experience. He is beautiful and you are amazing!

Ann-Marie said...

He TOTALLY looks like Maren! He is sooo darling. I love all the details of this post. Thanks. I felt like I was visiting and you were telling me. We are so excited for you.

And you ARE a champion. I don't know how you did it!

heather said...

I can't believe how big he is!! Congrats Mark and Dani - we are incredibly happy for you! I can't wait to meet him someday!!

Ann-Marie said...

Also, how did your hair get SO long. It is pretty!!!

Learning Lab Mom said...

So so so so cute. Can't wait to see him in person. As always, love what you wrote up. You're amazing!

Ashley Clark said...

Awesome!! I love reading your story. I always think about your first birth story. Anyways - I didn't realize you were in SLC we will be in Provo in the Fall, so maybe we will run in to you sometime or at least get some midwife reccomendations!! So cute! COngrats

Sharisse said...

Loved it! We are so happy for you guys!!! Good job! Can't wait to meet the little guy!

Nicole said...

He is adorable, and looks so much like Maren. Love the name Andrew too. Oh yes, and your hair is so long and beautiful!

Amy said...

belly tattoo? Cool!

He's so so beautiful, congratulations! And I'm so proud of you for doing it all again!!! You're amazing.

Jessica Gonzalez said...

He's adorable! Congratulations!!!

Heather Bliss said...

I'm so proud of you Dani, reading your story makes me feel like I could do it again when I seriously thought there was no way I'd go natural ever again! You're amaze balls! and I wish they didn't have the policy of no birth in the tub because I really wanted to but had to get out just before I pushed. Woo! Go baby boys!

Brittani said...

Congrats! What a great birth story. SO great to hear that it went better for you the second time around. I am hoping the same for myself come June:)

Jancisco said...

Oh I love him so much already! He is adorable. And your super human strength is incredible. Congratulations to all of you!

Melanie said...

Yay, yay, yay! Way to go! I'm glad you stayed in the tub. When I was pregnant I was telling my labor-and-delivery-nurse cousin about things I was worrying about regarding hospital policies. She told me to just do it and tell the nurse to bug off. Nothing really came up for me (except drinking water...I was so thirsty and they wouldn't bring me any...finally Sam gave me his water bottle), but I'm sure one day it will and I will remember you saying you're staying in the tub. :)

I love the henna tatoos! How fun! And little Andrew does look a lot like Maren. Congrats and good luck in the coming tiresome weeks.