Nov 30, 2020

Birth Story

Jackson > Birth Story

Tuesday July 13th came and went. I didn't feel at all sad, as I knew that most first babies came a little later than their estimated due date. We had been doing as many things as we could to "shake the tree" as our doula Julie put it. I was eating lots of spicy food, laughing as much and as often as I could, taking long walks, and of course, doing lots of "snuggling" with Michael. The thought of a six-week moratorium imposed at any time is a powerful aphrodisiac.

On the morning of July 14th, I was feeling a little restless. During the previous week, I had not traveled more than about 10 miles from home. The nursery had been ready for months, all of my work was caught up, and the house was clean. So, I decided to call my father and see if he wanted to make the 45-minute drive with me to go pick up 2 new chickens. For those of you who don't know, we have a small flock of Rhode Island Reds that we share our yard with. We provide them with all of the bugs and grass they can eat, and they provide us with lovely, fresh, organic eggs. This spring, weasels killed several of our chickens and we were down to only two. The farmer we purchase our feed from said he had a bunch of 20-week-old hens. So, around 10am that morning, my father and I went to pick up the chickens. I distinctly remember telling him that I was not feeling at all "laborish".

The trip was uneventful, and we arrived home around 12:30 with our new hens. My father went back home, and I went inside to use the bathroom for the 300th time that morning. Then, I went out into the yard with the dogs to introduce them to the new chickens. We walked around for about 15 minutes. Laszlo was particularly interested in the new girls. I was having fun watching the animals interact when I noticed that my shorts felt very wet. I felt them, and sure enough, the crotch was wet through. I thought this was odd, as I had just gone to the bathroom, and even though I had been leaking a little the last week or so, this was more than a leak. I called Michael, and he suggested that I call our doula and see what she said, and then call him back to let him know if he should come home. He works in Northampton Mass, a 45-minute drive from our home.

Julie suggested that maybe I did just wet myself, because she said when your water breaks, you really know it. She said maybe the baby shifted and compressed my bladder in a new way and I was unaware of it. However, she also said that sometimes when your membranes rupture, they start as a small leak, so she suggested I lie down, get some rest, and try to see if I was feeling any contractions. This was around 1 pm.

I lay down on the couch in the den and watched some television. I thought I might be feeling some faint contractions, about every ten minutes or so. At 2:30, as I was watching a Baby Story on TLC, Michael called. He got about 2 seconds into the conversation when my water broke for real. It was an absolute torrent and gush. I was covered from head to toe and completely soaked through. I was experiencing a pulsating feeling as the liquid continued to gush forth. Michael said he would be on his way immediately, and I called Julie to let her know. I then called the OB and they wanted me to come in immediately to be checked. At the time, there was what I thought to be some blood mixed in with the fluid. I later came to realize it was meconium. I called my dad and he took me to the OB, which is luckily right around the corner from our house.

At the office they quickly whisked me into an eval room and gave me some pads as I was making a large puddle in their waiting room. Michael was on his way and planned to meet me at the office. Dr. Kline, an OB I had not yet met, came in and checked me. She said that I was almost completely effaced and about a small finger's width dilated. She also confirmed that it was meconium in the fluid, and she said that she wanted me to go straight to the hospital. If your membranes rupture, it is important that the baby be born within 24 hours, otherwise, there can be complications and infection. Because of the meconium, our hopes of delivering the baby in the labor pool were no longer an option. The baby would need to be suctioned immediately after his head was out, and this was not possible in the pool. We had known that this was a possibility and we were easily able to move forward and revise our plan.

So, we left the office, swung by the house to pick up the suitcase and kiss the dogs, and went to Manchester Memorial Hospital. The hospital is about 5 minutes from home. By the time we got there it was about 4pm. We checked in and were shown to our room. The hospital has a brand new birthing center, which is beautiful, and one of the best OB nursing staffs in the region. Our room was large and airy and our first nurse, Loretta, was funny and engaging. She strapped two cords to my stomach, one to measure the baby's heart rate and the other to measure my contractions. As it turned out, the contractions were happening about every 5 minutes, but they were still very mild. The baby's heart rate was hovering in the 140s with good movement into the 160s and 130s. After 20 minutes, she unstrapped me and said I was free to get comfortable in any way I chose. Around then, Julie arrived, and we decided to walk around the ward.

My original plan had included spending the major part of my labor at home with Julie there to help guide me through relaxation and comfort techniques. However, nothing with birth is ever how you plan, and we made the best of our new situation. I was allowed to move, eat graham crackers and milk, and do whatever else I needed to make it through the contractions. I would spend about half an hour walking, then half an hour sitting on the birth ball, then half an hour lying on my side, and so on. About every hour the nurse checked the baby's heart rate, and it remained steady. My parents stopped by to see how we were doing and bring Michael and Julie something to eat. They left around 8pm. After that, the contractions were beginning to move a little closer, and I was allowed to get into the labor tub. It was so nice, the warm water and jets were so relaxing. Michael and Julie took turns rubbing my back and feet. Julie had brought essential oils with her, and so they put a washcloth on my chest that was scented with lavender. Every time I had a contraction, I breathed in deeply and was enveloped by that wonderful scent. I stayed in the tub until around midnight. Our nurse Loretta came in and checked me every half hour or so. It got to the point where she would hand me the Doppler and I would place it exactly over the baby's heart each time. The nice thing was that his heart was moving lower with each examination.

While being in the tub was wonderful, getting out of it was difficult, as I would become racked with chills. Around midnight I began to get very tired and wanted to labor for a while in bed, lying on my side. At this point, we had a new nurse, named Wendy. The OB staff was reluctant to perform many internal exams to check my progress because of the ruptured membranes, but she did one at this point and said I was four centimeters. Although I was hoping for more, I was making progress and decided to rest. At this point I started to get very nauseous and vomited a number of times throughout the night. Michael and Julie took turns sitting beside me, rubbing my back, and letting me squeeze their hands each time I had a contraction. I wanted to feel that relief of the water again, but couldn't muster the energy to get to the tub, so instead I sat in the shower. However, I had problems with chills again, so Michael covered me with towels and aimed the jets of warm water at my belly. He sat with me for about an hour, until I was too tired to sit anymore. I got back in bed and Michael and Julie covered me with warm blankets and towels. But, then I was too warm and threw everything off and began throwing up again. Amazingly, I managed to sleep for about 4 hours, semi-waking during each contraction. Julie later told me that the nurse said it was normal for labor to slow down during the wee hours of the night, and she was not concerned.

At 6am the nurse checked me again. If you start at 1pm the day before, which was when I first felt wet shorts, I had been in labor for 17 hours. Most first time moms labor for between 12-18 hours, and we had the 24 hour window hanging over us because of the ruptured membranes. So, I was overjoyed to find out that I was 8 cms, very close to the 10 needed to begin pushing. The nurse went to get the doctor so she could evaluate me. In the meantime, I got a wonderful second wind and was able to sit up. I felt like such a queen as Michael was massaging my feet and Julie was massaging my back. I knew that all of my hard work and effort the night before had paid off and that my son would soon be there.

You can only imagine my utter devastation when the doctor said that I was at 3 centimeters, maybe. The nurse had been feeling my scar tissue, and had mis-assessed my dilation. The doctor then broke up the scar tissue, which was quite painful. She said that she had seen women go from 3 cm to 10 cm in half an hour after doing this, so we were hopeful. Two hours later, with no real progression, and my contractions beginning to move farther apart, Julie had a talk with the doctor. Even though in our birth plan we had requested no augmentation of labor, the time had come to move things along. Dr. Kline was incredibly respectful of our wishes, but also knew that as we had exhausted all of the natural means to progress the labor, it was time to turn to the finest medical technology could offer. I felt very positive about this decision. At this point I was on my third set of nurses, Sue and Kim. They started a Pitocin drip, and we also decided that I should get IV antibiotics to help protect the baby against any infection from the ruptured membranes. The wonderful thing about our hospital is that they have waterproof telemetry units, so after getting the IV, I was able to get back in the labor tub, as I knew that Pitocin contractions could be incredibly intense.

I labored for about another hour and a half. During this time, I began discussing the idea of getting and epidural with Julie and Michael. I knew I was near the end of my strength, as it had been almost 24 hours since I had started labor, and had thrown up the little food I had eaten since. We decided to give me some time in the tub. I realized that I was done around 11am and we decided to get the epidural. It took about half an hour to get everything ready, as they had to pump IV fluids into my body to prevent against a drop in my blood pressure. During the last fifteen minutes of waiting for the epidural, I was in intense pain. The pitocin had kicked in and my contractions were about two minutes apart and getting stronger. When the anesthesiologist walked in, I felt such a sense of relief. I had to sit up to get the epidural, and curl forward so the doctor could stick the three-inch needle in my back. After a few minutes, I felt very numb, and they kicked up the epidural to full strength. I became incredibly cold and could not stop shaking. I must have been covered with ten blankets, but they didn't really help. At one point my blood pressure dropped to around 80/30, but then it came back up. And through all of this, the baby kept a nice strong heart beat, which was wonderful. Dr. Kline checked me after the epidural kicked and reported I was at six centimeters. I was glad, because if I had been anything more than 8, I would have felt badly getting the epidural, seeing as I was so close.

For the next two hours, I dozed on and off. At some point my mother came and stayed with us for the remainder of the birth. Michael and Julie were both in and out. I knew they must also be exhausted and hungry and I was glad that they could have a break as well. At 1:30pm, I was checked again, and had gone past 10 cms, to the point where the baby had "passively descended" into the birth canal. I really wanted to be able to feel my son being born, so we turned down the epidural. This brought on another strong wave of nausea. After half and hour, I was told it was time to push. A squat bar was installed at the end of the bed with a sheet tied around the top. I braced my legs against the bar and pulled the sheet, creating and isometric contraction. As I began to be able to feel more of my lower torso, I was able to push harder and harder. The feeling of pushing is so different than contractions. It was not at all painful, but there was this intense pressure and desire to push the baby out. What I really wanted to do was squat, so the epidural was shut off completely so I could have feeling in my legs. This took a little while and again I became nauseous.

After an hour and half of pushing, I began to squat. The feeling was intense, and I was able to push to baby so much easier. Within about ten minutes, he was close to crowning. The entire time, the nurses kept telling me what a large amount of red hair my son had, and this really kept me going. All I wanted was to see his face and hold him in my arms. It had been such a long labor, and I had used every ounce of strength and energy. I squatted and pushed with all my strength, with everyone encouraging me and wiping off my sweat. I knew I was almost there when they paged the pediatrician and Dr. Kline began to put on her "battle gear". But, at that point I had nothing left. I tried so hard to push him those last few centimeters, but I couldn't. So then once he had crowned, Dr. Kline attached the vacuum tube to the baby and in about 5 seconds, his head was out. They immediately suctioned his mouth and nose, and he gave a lusty cry. This was a great sign, as it meant that they did not have to intibate. Also, since I had been getting the intravenous antibiotics, he was protected against possible infection from the meconium. His body came out a few seconds later. It was the most bizarre and intense feeling I have ever had. Because of the meconium and stress of the birth, the baby was taken to a table in the room for the pediatrician and nurse to clean him up and check his vitals. Michael went with them, and Dr. Kline turned her attention back to me. By then, Sue and Kim had left, and I birthed by son with my fourth nurse, whose name I can't remember. There were so many people in the room; it was a very surreal experience.

After what seemed like forever, but was only a few minutes, they brought my beautiful son to me. He was the most beautiful creature I have ever seen. He had tons of red hair and huge blue eyes. He was so happy and content and we simply gazed into each other's eyes. This was all happening while Dr. Kline tried to coax out my placenta, which seemed to be very happy staying where it was. After this, she repaired my episiotomy. She said how much she hated to have given me one, but there was not alternative. I was amazed at how much blood and goo there was. I was feeling very weak and groggy, and at the same time quite hungry. They finished cleaning me up, and I sat with the baby. By then my father had arrived and we all sat around loving on our new baby, Jackson Matthews Lee. He had been born at 4:30 pm on Thursday July 15th, 2004 weighing in at 7lbs 15 ounces, 21 inches long.

After we were settled, Julie left. She had been such an amazing presence throughout the entire experience. She later told us that the doctor had doubts that I would be able to deliver the baby vaginally, but had been so respectful of our wishes that she gave us time to try. Because we had so much support, we were able to avoid a cesarean section, which for so many women is just standard care at this point, especially those whose water breaks early in labor. I was in labor for 27.5 hours, and at the hospital for 24.5. It was a long experience, and one that I will never forget. In the end, we got what we came for, a beautiful healthy baby boy. Even though nothing happened the way I had hoped for initially, I felt truly empowered and respected by the process. I only wish every laboring woman could have the love and support I experienced.

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