Other topics discussed in this post:
Why You Should Hire A (Our) Doula
Shrike: World’s Greatest Birth Partner
I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to sit down and write about Peeper’s birth.
After all, it’s a story that I’ve already told at least a zillion times in the past seventeen days (half a zillion of which were in the first forty-eight hours or so) and that I’ve already got set in “story format” in my head.
So, here it goes . . . .
For starters, let me back up just a bit – On the morning of Saturday October 25, we had our baby shower, and that afternoon, we met with DoulaK to do our supplemental childbirth education, and to further discuss our labor plans.
She showed us a video about “rhythm and ritual” in labor, which showed several different women at different stages of their labor (including the pay-offs at the end, where the babies showed up!) and focused on the different “rituals” that each woman found worked best to help her through the contractions.
Some of them rocked, some moaned, some focused on their birth partners, one even yodeled, but the important thing was that each found something that worked for her and stuck with it.
Later, Shrike said that this really helped her, because then she knew that there wasn’t some thing she had to make me do while I was in labor, or some prescribed technique to remember (like Lamaze breathing), she just had to help me with whatever it was that I needed to be doing at the time.
DoulaK also showed us a relaxation strategy which turned out to be very useful. It was incredibly simple, and just involved squeezing and tensing up (either myself, or Shrike squeezing me more tightly as part of a massage) as I inhaled, and then relaxing and releasing as I exhaled.
When she first demonstrated it, we liked it and we ended up doing it a good bit during labor.
We also talked a lot about my goal of getting through labor without any pain medication. And about my fear that, given what a wuss I am, I might be begging for the epidural before we ever got out of the house.
She told us that something that works for a lot of women is to have a “secret code” (which Shrike and I kept referring to as a “safe word”) to mean that “I’m not just complaining about the pain, I really, really, really do want the epidural now.”
She said that “You would think it wouldn’t make a difference, and they’d just be throwing the word out there, but most women really hang on to that, and don’t use it unless they really have to.”
We liked that idea right off, and without going into the reasons behind it, we chose “wildebeest” as our secret epidural code word.
She also told us some things that she might do to try to “talk me down” from an epidural decision, if that’s what I wanted. She said that she could suggest changing positions, or waiting until I could get my cervix checked. I asked her to please do that.
We talked about a whole bunch of other stuff, as well, and then sent her on her way, saying “We’ll see you in a month!”
Little did we know.
On Sunday, I unpacked all the shower gifts, and photographed them for the blog. I took tags off all the clothes and such, and put all the 0 – 3 and non-clothing items in a basket to wash. All the larger clothes, I packed away for later.
I was kind of impressed with myself for getting all that done right away. In retrospect, perhaps I was nesting?
There were no other signs that anything was amiss.
Several people have asked if I “felt funny” that day, but I really didn’t. Nothing out of the ordinary at all.
I went up to Democratic Headquarters and (finally) put in a shift, making phone calls to the party’s volunteer list, trying to line up people to help with GOTV. I got through six pages, out of twenty-two, and took the list home with me. I was planning to spend most of the next week up there working on that. Oops.
Shrike got home from work around dinner time, so we ended up getting to bed fairly early. Little did we know it would be the closest thing to a “full night’s sleep” that we’d get in
days weeks months (?!?).
And then. It began.
At four o’clock on the morning of Monday October 27, I was in bed, asleep enough to be at least sort of dreaming (Something about Dutch people and crossword puzzles?) but awake enough to be aware of a sudden slight pressure at my cervix, then a release, accompanied by a small “gush” of fluid, followed quickly by a second “gush.”
I was awake immediately, thinking “What the fu . . . ?!?”
My first thought, of course, was that I’d peed myself, but then I remembered the pressure sensation.
All I can compare it to is what happens if you squeeze a water balloon in one small area; a part of the balloon bulges out and the rubber thins with the pressure and then it bursts.
I’m sure that’s exactly what happens to the amnoitic sac when it bursts, and I swear that I felt it.
I’ve described it to several people, including several who’ve had their amniotic sacs spontaneously rupture and no one else has reported having felt that, but I can’t imagine that I made it up.
But, at any rate. . . .
I lay there for a few moments, thinking “Oh my God. I think my water just broke. But that’s not possible, I still have four weeks to go. But what the hell else could it be. Well, why don’t you go to the bathroom and check. But what if there’s more gushing on the way? Holy shit. I think my water just broke. Oh. My. God.”
Or, you know, thoughts to that effect.
Finally, I did get up and go to the bathroom, where the first thing I discovered was that my underwear were soaked. Not just in the crotch, but all over. Hmm, that’s a lot of gushing.
And way too much information.
It gets worse.
After I peed, I pretty quickly confirmed (well, not as quickly as I should have, because I was still sort of in denial) that this gushing / flowing business was not stopping.
At this point, Shrike was oblivious. As usual, she’d gotten up in the wee hours to let the dogs out, and then lay down on the couch in “their” room and gone back to sleep.
So, that’s how I’d come to be on her side of the bed when my water broke. Oops.
Just the night before, we’d been talking about getting a new plastic mattress cover, to replace the one that BigGaloot had torn up by jumping on the bed with no sheets.
I was saying that, yes, we’d want it once Peeper was likely to be peeing in the bed, but that we should go ahead and get it now because, “You never know. What if my water breaks in the middle of the night. You know that happened to my mom with me. Forty years, and I think my dad’s still pissed about it.”
Later, on the way to the hospital, I asked, “So, can I say ‘I told you so’ about the mattress cover?”
So, it’s four in the morning, four weeks early, I’m dribbling (I assume) amniotic fluid and Shrike’s asleep.
I was scheduled for an appointment at the OB’s office at 8 am, but figured I probably shouldn’t wait around four hours for further instructions, so I called them.
Since it was the middle of the night, the call went to the answering service and I talked to a human, instead of getting to select the “If you think you are in labor. . . .” option on the voicemail system. I was a bit disappointed by that.
Midwife D (the one whom I’d not yet met) called back pretty quickly (on my cell, so as to not wake Shrike until I was ready to) and told me that, yep, it sounded like we were having a baby today, and that I should “grab (my) bag and head to the hospital.”
Um. Bag? What bag?!?
I was told I should pack that next week!
I asked if we should “grab our keys and go, or do we have time to pack a bag?”
She told me to pack quickly.
Okay, now I really have to wake Shrike up and tell her what’s going on.
I was a bit nervous about freaking her out, because for a couple of weeks, everytime I called to her from across the house, or she heard me say, “Oh no!” or anything like that, she’d come running, with a panicked look on her face, just sure that I was in labor.
Of course, I’d laughed at her each time, but now we weren’t kidding around.
When I went to wake her up, it was all I could do to resist a Lucy and Ricky style, “Honey, it’s time!” but I opted to go with the, “Sweetie, don’t freak out, but I need you to get up. You see, it seems that my water just broke, and I talked to the midwife, and we need to go to the hospital. I think we’re having a baby today!” approach instead.
Well, forget “Ricky” because then, we were in full-on “Lucy and Ethel Have a Baby” mode.
(We are now several very special episodes into that series!)
Oh, to have a video of us running around the house trying to figure out what to pack. Hell, we had to start with figuring out what bag to take!
My one genious idea, which ended up being for naught, was to pack the thank you notes and our gift list from the shower, on the (incorrect) assumption that there would be a lot of sitting around and waiting, and it would give us something to do.
(Yesterday, I finally managed to write about five notes. I think Shrike has written a couple. Sorry folks. Thank you.)
We completely blew off taking anything for Peeper to wear, on the (correct) assumption that nothing we owned would fit her yet.
I don’t even know what else we packed, except that I made sure we had the camera (and video camera, which we’ve not used at all – really need to do that) and cell phones and chargers for them all, and that we took one last belly shot before we left.
During all the packing, I did manage to stop and call DoulaK to give her a heads-up on the situation. She’d said to call anytime, day or night, but I still felt bad about it. As it turns out, I had to leave a voicemail, so at least I didn’t really wake her up at 4 am.
When we arrived at the hospital, we had to enter through the emergency room, since it was the middle of the night.
At the front desk, there’s a sign that says, “Please tell someone immediately if you are here to have a baby, having chest pain (or some other kind of emergent situations).”
So, I went to the window and said, “That sign says to tell you if I’m here to have a baby. I’m here to have a baby. I’m thirty-six weeks pregnant and my water just broke.”
Well, that got their attention, and they wisked us right up to the labor and delivery floor. They did let me walk, though. There was no dramatic wheel chair or gurney ride or anything like that.
When we got upstairs, they put us in an “observation room” and had me get stripped to a gown so they could check things out.
This part’s kind of fuzzy, but I know they put on a fetal monitor, and had trouble finding Peeper’s heartbeat at first. Then she realized that she was listening for it with the contraction monitor, not the heartbeat monitor, and switched belts. Argh. It still took a minute to locate her in there, but pretty soon we were listening and things were sounding just fine.
Of course, that’s when they decided to check my blood pressure, and to get all concerned about it being rather high. It went back down shortly afterward, though, and I explained that I was just a bit freaked out when they did the first reading.
They also started an IV, took some blood, and used a bit of litmus-like paper to confirm that the stuff dripping out of me was, indeed, amniotic fluid.
Someone checked my cervix and said that I was dilated to one centimeter and, if I’m remembering correctly, not very effaced. She also said that, “Your baby’s in Timbuktu” meaning that her head was still quite high. As was my cervix, which I knew, because she had to go in up to her elbow to find it.
She was pretty sure that she’d felt the top of Peeper’s head, but MidwifeD did a quick ultrasound when she arrived, just to make sure that she was, indeed, head down. She was in the same position that she’d been in for weeks – head down, butt on my left side, feet on my right. That’s exactly the position that DoulaK had described as “ideal” just thirty-six hours before.
Speaking of DoulaK, we’d not heard back from her yet (turns out she’d gotten up with one of her kids, and was in their room, so hadn’t heard the phone ring the first time) so I figured I ought to give her another call to let her know what was going on. I left another message, including a report on the status of my cervix and Peeper’s position.
Later, she told me that her thirteen-year-old son had heard me on the answering machine and told her, “There’s a lady on the phone, something about where the head is.”
Needless to say, that got her attention!
When it got to be about seven or eight o’clock, we started calling our families to let them know what was going on, as well.
All the while, I’m still dripping, oozing and gushing amniotic fluid, which is a pretty freaky sensation.
Eventually, they got an actual room cleaned up and ready and move us in there. That was a little surreal, walking into that room, thinking “This is where Peeper will be born.”
By the time I was in the room, I was starting to have some contractions, sort of. They were about the level of the mild cramps that I might have, say, the day before my period starts. Not so much pain, as an annoying awareness of my uterus.
I don’t think I was even feeling any tightness yet, just the crampiness down low.
At some point, before 8 am, DoulaK showed up, and the doctor started talking about giving me some Pitocin, to “get things going.”
With DoulaK’s encouragment, I bargained with him and he agreed to let me try walking for an hour, to see if I could increase them on my own.
As luck would have it, he had to go catch a baby right after that, so my hour stretched into two.
During the walking, Shrike’s mom arrived, and we sent the two of them out for breakfast, while DoulaK and I walked around and around and around the Labor and Delivery floor.
The contractions were picking up a bit, but not enough to impress the doctor, so he did start me on Pitocin around 10 am. I could tell a difference almost immediately.
During the next round of walking, which must have happened around noonish (I remember that the nurses were eating something that smelled really good, and even the other patient’s lunch trays were smelling good.) I went from walking and talking through the contractions with no problem, to having to slow down during them, to having to stop for each one.
First, the telemetry unit needed new batteries, then they had to get a different unit, then they replaced one of the monitoring belts, then went to an internal monitor when the belts weren’t working at all, then had to get a new cable to attach that to the main machine. Oh, I think there was something else in there, too.
By early afternoon, I was back in my room, having some significant contractions, that were starting to require a lot more of my attention.
Actually, I was still happy for other people to keep talking during them, to distract me, but when I got quiet, they got quiet and just watched me.
As the contractions intensified, DoulaK suggested that I try the birthing ball, but I needed to go to the bathroom first.
On the way back from the bathroom, a contraction hit me and I grabbed hold of Shrike. That sort of accidently put us into the “slow dancing” position that we’d practiced a bit in our childbirth class.
I really liked that, and ended up staying there for quite a while. Between contractions I could stand up straight and even hold a conversation, but when they hit, I would hold onto her, burying my face in her neck, doing the “squeeze thing,” sometimes whispering in each other’s ears, and swaying through the pain.
At some point, either during the dancing or right before, Shrike’s sister arrived, and since we were limited to a total of three support people, we asked DoulaK to wait outside for a while.
Not too long after that, Peeper’s heartrate started showing decelerations (back to her old tricks) and they had me get back in bed, on my left side, then my right, then my left. I don’t know how many flips they had me do. Around this time, the midwife checked me, and I was dilated 4 – 5 centimeters, fully effaced and Peeper was at +1 station.
Meanwhile, the contractions were getting a lot more intense, and I told Shrike to “Get DoulaK back in here. I need somebody who knows what they are doing.”
Unfortunately, that meant that someone had to leave, and since her sister had just arrived, Shrike’s mom offered to be the one to step out.
This happened at around 3:30 pm, and it all starts getting a bit fuzzy for me after that, because this is when, as I later told Shrike, “I was starting to lose it.”
When I said that, she wanted to argue with me about it, saying that, “No, honey, you never lost it. You were in control.”
Um, were you in my head? I might have looked in control (although I can’t imagine how) but inside?
I was totally losing my shit.
I think that DoulaK could see that when she came back in the room, because the first thing she said to me was, “Okay, before this next contraction, you need to get hold of yourself.”
I did not feel at all like I “had hold of myself” again until well after Peeper was out.
Actually, I may still not.
Shortly after DoulaK came back in, they had me change positions again, because of Peeper’s heart rate; this time they put me on my hands and knees in the bed.
Shrike was standing on my right, and DoulaK was on my left (in the face-down position that I was in), which worked out really well, because no matter which way I flailed, in my vain attempt to run away from the pain, one of them was right in my face.
Later, DoulaK told me, “It was kind of funny, because you’d work Shrike for a while (begging for her to make it stop), then you’d turn around and work me for a while. Then you’d go back to her.”
Did I mention the pain?
This is the point at which it had become unbearable.
Except that I was (kind of) bearing it.
I just wanted so much to make it stop, but DoulaK was totally right about the secret code.
I knew I had it “in my pocket” but I couldn’t quite make myself pull it out, because as badly as I wanted the pain to stop, I also knew how badly I wanted to do this naturally.
Actually, there was a little while there, when I literally couldn’t say the word – because I couldn’t remember what it was.
For the life of me, all I could think of was “aardvark.”
I thought I was going to die because all I could come up with was “aardvark.”
And yet, on another mental level, I still had, somewhere way back in the recesses of my brain, some awareness that of the absurdity of that. There was still this small voice in my head saying, “You should just say ‘aardvark.’ That would be funny.”
But, I didn’t.
I didn’t say “aardvark” and I didn’t say “wildebeest.” (Yet)
I did moan and cry and beg – beg, beg, beg – for someone to make the pain stop.
At one point, I looked and Shrike, and just said, “Pleeeaasse.”
And she looked right back and said, “That’s not the word. “
I know that sounds mean, just telling it, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.
She was telling me that she was completely willing to get me the epidural if I really, really, really wanted it, but that she knew that I didn’t really want it – and it was up to me to make that decision, and to make it clear to everyone that it really was the decision I wanted to make.
This was just one example of how absolutely wonderful she was, through the whole thing. I know she had her concerns about how she’d handle it, not in terms of the blood and gore (she’s actually pretty good with that) but just in terms of watching me go through the pain, and in terms of knowing how to help.
In discussing it later, she told me how hard it as was to watch and to not be able to stop the pain, but that “I knew you’d kill me” if she caved on the pain medication before I actually did.
It wasn’t just about that though, it was everything. I can only think of a couple of times when she wasn’t doing exactly what I needed her to at a given moment, and those were both tiny things, along the lines of “Move your hand over just a bit, that’s not comfortable.”
One kind of funny thing is that more than once, she got out the tennis balls and wanted to rub my back with them, but I wasn’t having any pain back there, and didn’t need that.
She seemed kind of disappointed that she didn’t get to use them – especially after we’d actually remembered to pack them!
But, through the whole day (and the following days, too, actually), she was right there, saying, doing and being exactly what I needed at that moment. I could not possibly have asked for anything more from a birth partner. Or a life partner.
The other key to the success of my birth experience was DoulaK. I cannot imagine things having gone anywhere near as well if she’d not been there.
There were several decisions that I made along the way – from delaying the Pitocin until I could try walking for a couple of hours, to delaying Peeper’s first bath until she’d gotten her temperature more stabilized – that I would not have known I even had an option about, nor would I have felt empowered to exercise that option, without her there to tell me.
Her expertise in the labor process itself was a huge help, in terms of recommending position changes and the such, and in terms of helping us to know that everything that was happening was – while incredibly painful, and pretty terrifying – completely normal.
That’s one thing she told us before hand, that if she saw anything going on that was out of the ordinary or not within the range of normal labor experiences, she would let us know.
It was also a huge help to have her there to reassure Shrike, and to let her know what to expect at each step of the way.
I would recommend to anyone that they hire a doula, especially if they have any interested in having a natural, or natural-ish birth.
And if you live anywhere near me, I would recommend 100% that you hire my doula. Just email me and I’ll give you her contact information.
So, where was I?
Oh yes, on my hands and knees in the bed, thrashing and begging.
Let me talk about the pain itself for a minute.
In retrospect, I know I was lucky, in that I didn’t have any back labor or anything like that.
With each contraction, I felt a lot of tightness all over my belly, starting at the top of my uterus and moving down, but the pain was all concentrated in my lower abdomen, exactly where you’d feel menstrual cramps.
Basically, it was like the worst cramps of your entire life, times 100. But coming and going. I’m not saying things were “fun” between contractions, but even at the worst of it, I was able to catch my breath and gather myself a bit during that small break.
On the other hand, during this phase, most of the “gathering” involved thinking “Oh my God, I can’t do that again. Please don’t let there be another one.” But, of course, there was.
So, I’m thrashing and begging for it to stop, and saying that “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t do this.”
And Shrike is reminding me that, “You’ve are doing this. You’ve been been doing this for the past twelve hours.”
At one point, I believe that I snarled back at her, “I know!” but it really was helpful to be reminded of what I’d already accomplished.
It was also very helpful to be reminded of why I was doing this.
About the time that I moved to my hands and knees, and starting losing focus, I asked Shrike to get me Peeper’s ultrasound photo.
We’d brought all of them (and had shown them off to several nurses) but had one picked out (“the sweet one“) to be my focal point.
Sidebar:This is exactly what she looks like when she’s sleeping, even now.
The position that I was in really worked well for this, because the head of the bed was elevated and I was leaning against it, so Shrike was able to just put the photo on the mattress a bit above my head and I could see it whenever I wanted or needed to.
The other thing that was a big help in keeping me focused on the goal was that when I’d start holding my breath or hyperventilating, DoulaK would remind me to breathe, “all the way down to Peeper – she needs that oxygen.”
I wasn’t sure, at the time, how much I was actually able to actually do that, but she told me later that everytime she said it, I slowed down and took deeper breaths, so I guess it worked on both the mental and physical levels.
As I said, this whole phase of the labor is quite a blur to me; I remember the pain, and trying to run away from it, and begging for it to stop, and bargaining with myself about using the safeword, and hoping that someone else would cave on the pain medication before I did.
As much as I tried to stay focused on why I as doing this, at one point, I do remember looking at Shrike and asking, “What the fuck was I thinking?!?”
Suddenly, with one contraction, I felt a new sensation. Pressure. Like need to go to the bathroom, but a little different. Like something that needed to be pushed the hell out of me now.
So I pushed. Just a little bit.
I knew that it was too soon to be feeling that, and way to soon to be pushing, but I couldn’t help it.
That went on for about three of four contractions – the same God-awful pain I’d been experiencing, plus this new pressure and the need to push – until I really, finally, could not take it any more.
A contraction ended, and I looked Shrike right in the eye and said, “I’m not fucking around. Wildebeest. Get. Me. The. Epidural.”
That’s when she reminded me that we’d been told it could take as much as an hour from the time you request it before the epidural is in.
That’s all she wrote. I’d made the decision to have medication, and now I’d take whatever they could offer me.
“The get me the Stadol (narcotic via the IV) or knock me the fuck out. I don’t care. Just make. It. Stop.”
That’s when DoulaK started the bargaining and the “talking down.”
I remember thinking, “Aw shit. I can’t believe I told her to do this.”
She wanted me to change positions, and (although I’d forgotten about it until she reminded me a couple of days ago) suggested that I get up and go pee.
I don’t know what I said in response, but I know that what I was thinking was something along the lines of, “Has she lost her ever-lovin’ mind? There is no fucking way I can move to another position, let alone walk across the room!”
Then she suggested that I hold off until they checked my progress.
About that time, MidwifeD had come back into the room and (again, something that I didn’t remember until DoulaK told me, then it sort of came back to me) asked, “Is she pushing?”
DoulaK told her, “She is, but she’s scared to tell anybody.”
Holy cow. She was absolutely right.
She told me later that she could tell the moment I started pushing, from changes in my voice.
So, MidwifeK came over and checked my cervix and said, “Well, I’m not feeling any cervix, so either it’s the position that you’re in, or you’re at ten and you’re ready to push.
I whispered to DoulaK (not even to Shrike) that “I’ve actually kind of been feeling pressure for a few contractions, and pushing a little bit, but I didn’t want to say anything, because I figured it was too soon.”
Surely it was too soon.
I mean, I was only 4 – 5 cm dilated just half an hour ago (although I had no concept of time, and it seemed like much longer than that, I knew it hadn’t been that long).
That’s part of what made me finally, actually ask for the epidural – as bad as it was, I couldn’t possibly imagine going through another several hours of it, which is what I fully expected.
And, of course, what made it so unbearable was that I was in transition – and that I was dilating five centimenters in thirty minutes.
Oh, well, no wonder.
But now, they were saying that it was time to push, and I just wasn’t quite sure what to think about that.
On the one hand, it was something of a light at the end of the tunnel, knowing that I was now moving into the final phase, but on the other hand, I was terrified of the actual pushing her out part.
But, they told me to push, and my body told me to push, so I pushed.
I’d pushed for maybe half a dozen contractions in that position, when I heard MidwifeD say, “Get her on her back. This baby needs to come out. “
Now, I’d like to say that my reaction to that statement was one of concern for Peeper’s well-being, and there was a degree of that, but my primary thought was, “Oh thank God. They are going to get her out, and this is going to be over very soon.”
At that point, I didn’t care how they got her out, just that they did.
They could’ve sliced me open right then and there, and I would’ve been happy.
No such luck though, they still expected me to push.
As I got onto my back, I heard someone say, “Push like you’re constipated.”
I said (outloud), “Oh, I can do that!“
That was, oddly enough, exactly what I needed to hear.
The pressure sensation was so similar to going to the bathroom that it was disconcerting. I could feel Peeper moving down through the birth canal – and could tell that that’s where she was – but it also felt like I was going to go to the bathroom.
That instruction allowed me to have this conversation in my head that went something like, “It’s not poop, it’s just the baby. And if it is also poop, it’s okay. They won’t care. And if you go now, you won’t have to go later, and that would be a good thing. So go for it. Push like you’re pooping!”
This is one point where, believe it or not, all those baby-birthin’ shows I’ve been watching on TLC and Discovery Health actually paid off.
I knew what to expect that they would want me to do, in terms of putting my chin to my chest, pulling my legs back, dropping my knees open, holding my breath and pushing to the count of ten, so as they told me each of those things, it wasn’t news to me, and I thought, “Oh yeah. That’s how you make a baby come out. I knew that.”
At one point, I was pulling my knees in, and they told me to relax and drop them, and I actually thought, “Oh, that’s like all those women on TV. Ok, here’s what I have to do.”
The breathing and counting, though, I just ignored. It was a bit helpful to have the counting in the background, to somewhat anchor me in time, but there was no way I was using it to guide my breathing.
Interestingly, DoulaK tells me that the “counter” was a new nurse, who’d not been there earlier in my labor, but had shown up for the pushing, “She just walked in and started counting.”
I knew that I (and Peeper) needed more oxygen than that. I knew there was no way I could hold my breath that long, so I didn’t.
I didn’t follow their breathing / pushing instructions and schedule at all. I just breathed and pushed the way my body was telling me I needed to. That was more like holding my breath to a count of seven or eight, getting several quick breaths, then holding again.
As I was getting started with the pushing, I’d realized that Shrike’s sister was in the room, but her mother wasn’t, and I started asking if anyone had told Mom that I was pushing, and asking MidwifeD if she could please come back into the room.
She told me that she’d gotten in trouble before, for having too many people in the room, so we had to keep it to three.
After a few contractions on my back, I heard MidwifeD talking about using the vacuum to help get her out. She might have, technically, asked me if that was okay (although I’d already consented to whatever needed to be done, weeks before) and I said, “Yes, do anything. Just get her out.”
About then, I heard DoulaK tell Shrike, “Now, sometimes the vacuum cup pops off the baby’s head when they are pulling, and there’s a gush of blood, but it’s okay, it’s not the baby’s blood, and she’s just fine.”
Even at that moment, between contractions, in the middle of pushing out a baby, I thought, “Oh, I am so glad she told her that, because I wouldn’t want her to completely freak if that were to happen.”
DoulaK later told me that what happens is the mom’s blood pools under the cup, but if it pops off, it looks like it’s coming from the baby’s head. That happened once in a birth that she was attending and, “the dad almost hit the floor.” Ever since, she’s warned the birth partner about that possibility.
Then MidwifeD started trying to put the vacuum cup on Peeper’s head, and that was probably the worst part of the whole pushing phase, because the cup was bigger than I am.
Granted, Peeper was also bigger than I am, but she was coming out and had contractions behind her, and wasn’t made of sharp, pinchy plastic.
Of course, at the time, I just thought this was how it would be, but I was squirming and complaining anyway, and making it very clear that things were not going well down there.
Then – thank God! – MidwifeD asked someone to get the smaller vacuum cup. Salvation!
That bought me two or three more contractions on my own, while they brought her the cup, and everyone started telling me they could see Peeper, and she had a bunch of hair (which we were already expecting, so I asked what color it was!) and so on.
Meanwile, unbeknownst to me, out in the waiting area, Shrike’s mom overheard someone say my name, and the word “doctor” and started getting really worried.
In retrospect, what she probably heard was a discussion about checking with the doctor to get his okay for MidwifeD to proceed with the vacuum delivery.
I remember overhearing someone ask if he’d given his approval, and someone else saying, “He said, ‘It’s cool,'” and thinking, even at the time, that it was kind of funny, but also that he must not be too worried about us if a> he’s talking like that and b> he’s letting her do it, instead of coming in to do it himself.
Anyway, at that point Shrike’s mom called her sister’s cell phone and asked what was going on and somehow her sister went out to talk to her, and then sent her into the room.
As all that was happening, MidwifeD got the new, smaller vacuum cup on Peeper’s head, and at that point, I knew that this was likely to be the last contraction.
I’d seen vacuum assisted births on TV, and knew that it looked pretty awful, and that I really didn’t want little Peeper yanked out by her head, so that gave me the added incentive I needed to really give her everything I had from my end, so that she’d be getting more push than pull.
At one point during the pushing, I looked down and saw MidwifeD pulling on the cord or whatever attached to the vacuum, attached to my kid’s head, and thought, “Oh, I can’t watch that. I just have to close my eyes and push as hard as I can, and get her out of there.”
I felt her head coming out, and expected that once it was out, I’d be told to stop pushing, while she was suctioned and stuff, before delivering her body, but instead, she just came slithering all out in that one push, and the next thing I knew, she was on my belly, and I was looking at her.
I found out later that Shrike’s mom had walked into the room, and stepped around the curtain just in time to see her “come flying out!”
Overwhelmingly, my first impression of Peeper was how very small she was. I knew she’d be bluish (although that didn’t last long) and slimy and kind of rubbery-looking, but I was not prepared for her size.
I just kept saying, over and over, “Oh my God. You are soooo tiny!”
Shrike and I both were a little scared to touch her at first. In part, yes, because she was all gross and slimy, but for me at least, it was also because she just looked so tiny and fragile and I wasn’t really sure it was okay.
It seems like she’d just been on me for a couple of seconds when I heard her cry, not very loudly at first, but definitely a cry.
Soon, someone commented on her “good color” and I noticed that she was starting to “pink up” nicely.
Later, we were told that her Apgar scores were 8 at one minute and 9 at five minutes. (I never did find out which categories she lost points for.)
At some point, someone turned her around, with her bottom end pointing toward Shrike (now on my left side) and I saw that she was, indeed a girl (We were so certain about that, that no one had even bothered to confirm it with an “It’s a girl!” announcement.) and just about then, she peed on me. (For the first of many times, I’m sure.)
I then realized that MidwifeD was clamping off her umbilical cord and I remembered that someone was going to have to cut it. As she handed the scissors to Shrike, I asked her repeatedly whether she was okay with that, and if she really wanted to do it.
She did just fine. Her hand was a little shaky, but I believe everyone’s were at that moment.
Peeper must have been doing well, because they let her stay on me for a while, at least until after I’d delivered the placenta, I think, because I’m pretty sure she was still in my arms when MidwifeD was showing it to us, and explaining about the velamentous cord insertion.
When they took her over to the warmer to get cleaned up and such, Shrike, her mom and her sister (I think she was back in the room by now?) went with her, and DoulaK stayed with me, and held my hand while MidwifeD sewed me up.
“Oh yeah,” I asked, remembering that such a thing existed, “So, what happened down there?”
She explained that I did not have an episiotomy, but did have a second degree tear. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but she told me that the damage from the tear was less extensive than an episiotomy would have been, so we definitely went the right route there.
At some point (after I was sewn up, I assume), Shrike dad, her sister’s partner and her grandparents showed up.
Peeper was still on the warmer, and everyone was crowded around her, except for DoulaK, who was with me.
I joked that, “Now that she’s here, I have to pay somebody to pay attention to me!” but it actually worked out quite well.
They all wanted, and needed, to see Peeper and bond with her, and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted her over there all alone, and I needed to process the whole experience, not neccesarily with the help of the entire family.
So, they all did their thing while DoulaK stayed with me and let me tell her everything that she’d just seen.
I could just keep going, and roll right into our post-partum recovery, Peeper’s stay on the Pediatrics Ward and so on, but this post is supposed to be about our birth story, and I’ve hit the point where she’s born, and it’s already taken me longer to type it (and, possibly, taken you longer to read it) than labor actually lasted (12 hours, 18 minutes, from water breaking to baby in my arms) so I suppose I should wrap it up.
In all, I don’t think I can say that my birth experience was what I expected, because I really didn’t know what to expect, but other than it happening a month early and the complications that have arisen from that, for Peeper, I think it was just about as close to my ideal as I could have hoped for.
The only interventions that I really had were the Pitocin at the beginning, and the vacuum assistance at the end.
I had no big moral objection to Pitocin, I was just trying to avoid the “slippery slope” that it often initiates: Pitocin > More intense, painful contractions > Epidural > Labor not progressing > C-Section.
My body was ready, willing and able to respond to the Pitocin (I was already responding to the walking, etc.) so, other than maybe increased pain, I was able to avoid that.
Likewise, I have no regrets at all about the vacuum. I found out later that Peeper’s heart rate was dropping to around 48 when MidwifeD made that decision. She figured that, on my own, it would take about ten more minutes to deliver her, and wasn’t comfortable with her heart rate being down that much longer.
I didn’t know all that was going on, but I certainly wasn’t physically comfortable with her being in there any long, so I was up for any help they could give me.
As I’ve already said, Shrike was just perfect, and having her and DoulaK there really made all the difference in the world.
I can’t imagine having done it any other way.
I know this is incredibly cliched, but it was the worst hour and the best day of my life.
It was the hardest, the most intense, the most incredible and the most surreal thing I’ve ever experienced.
I still haven’t completely wrapped by head around the concept of being pregnant, let alone having a baby.
Every time I look at Peeper, I just think, “I can not believe that we made you. I can’t believe you were inside me, and I can’t believe I pushed you out, and now here you are.”
How does that ever seem real?