Elizabeth's birth



I was due June 6, and very much hoping not to deliver until June 3 or 4, as my sister Heidi would be arriving then, and it would greatly simplify who would be taking care of John when I went into labor.

However, on June 2 I woke up from a deep sleep at 5am, dreaming that I was peeing, to find warm water running down my leg.  I jumped up & went to the bathroom, thinking at first I was wetting the bed.  Once there, it seemed more likely to me my water had broken.  Indeed, my bladder was still full when I went to the bathroom.  I let the midwives know, woke Michael up to help me change the sheets, and tried to go back to bed.  I couldn't sleep thinking about all the "what ifs."  What if I don't go into labor; what if I can't find someone to watch John today; etc etc

In the end, the day went smoothly and seemed action packed.  Mona, our daycare provider, graciously offered to watch John even though it was a Sunday.  Heidi immediately offered to drive down from Portland right away & would be there by dinner.  We dropped John off after a little playground time & a trip to the farmer's market (where I was given free asparagus after the farmer asked me "when are you due?" and i said "I think today!").  I was sure that, now that I wasn't worried about John, we'd go home & labor would start.

I did have irregular contractions all day.  with walking they would increase & I'd feel a lot more pressure.  But I'd had contractions off & on for months at this point, and it didn't feel all that different.  I tried a long walk with my friend Aiyin and while I was walking things picked up, but when I got home they settled right down.  I also noted that evening that I hadn't leaked any more water at all the entire day, which seemed very unusual to me.

I talked with my midwife & we agreed that if labor started overnight we'd start antibiotics.  Then I went to sleep & shockingly slept soundly all night.

In the morning I still had no more leaking & no signs of labor.  I became convinced my water hadn't broken.  After talking with Ami, we agreed that it made sense to go to Kaiser to get evaluated and see if they could help us figure it out.  I called Labor & Delivery and spoke to a very harried resident who informed me they were all full & it might be best if I went elsewhere.  A friendly attending I knew well from my training jumped on the line at that point & told me I was welcome to come if I wanted, or she would set up a clinic appointment for me.  So I got an appointment with a very kind OB that morning.  She examined me & found no sign of leaking at this point.  My fluid level was normal, but on the low side of normal.

She recommended considering an at-home induction with my midwives.  I felt motivated to give it a try as a way to hedge my bets; if my water were broken, labor would be the best thing to reduce the chance of infection.  If my water weren't broken, maybe it wouldn't work but if it did, I felt fine about delivery at this point.  We checked in with Ami, who agreed with the plan, and picked up some castor oil on the way home . . .

Having experienced turista in Mexico a few times, I felt confident I could handle castor oil.  Michael made some smoothies for me to hide the flavor, and Heidi, Michael and I all took a shot of pedia-lyte to celebrate the induction.

I had the usual GI side effects from castor oil but it was a beautiful day, I had a good book to read, and just made sure to drink plenty of fluids.  It was just fine.  things settled down enough for me to have lunch with Heidi & Michael on the deck, and then I rested the afternoon until John got home from daycare.  I had a burst of energy and made everyone a big pasta dinner, and we all ate a nice meal together.

After John went to sleep we watched a little TV together and I felt sleepy and noticed I was having some cramping.  I decided an early bedtime would be best and went to sleep around 9:30.

I woke up around 11:30 and noticed the cramps were quite regular--every 2-4 minutes--but somewhat short and not really painful.  I got up & drank a smoothie, thinking I might need the energy tonight.  I paced around the house a little and hemmed & hawed about whether to call Ami.  On the one hand, if it were labor I wanted time to get a dose of antibiotics in.  On the other, I felt it might be a false alarm and didn't want to wake her up for nothing.  I decided to see if I could sleep, and sure enough fell right back to sleep.

I woke up from a painful contraction around 2, but sometimes that will happen when my bladder is full, so I got up & peed, and then went and had a glass of soymilk.  The contractions were still regular and felt sort of like moderate period cramps.  It felt better to breath slowly and deeply through them.  I sat on the exercise ball and did the meditation we'd practiced in yoga class where you imagine blowing up a balloon, and then we you exhale you watch it float away.  I'd start with red and make my way through the colors of the rainbow during a contraction.  It helped me feel nice & relaxed.  I was still on the fence about calling Ami, as I could definitely recall worse period cramps in the past, but I started to feel a little shaky and thought I'd better call just in case.  She seemed to be expecting my call; I assured her I was still early but she said she'd come right over.  I sat back down to meditate & thought about whether I should wake Michael.  I considered maybe having Ami just give me the dose of antibiotics in the front room so as not to wake anyone, and then sneaking back to bed so we could all get some more sleep.  but I started feeling a little shakier, and started thinking about how I'd like to clean the bathtub & make the bed.  And I also imagined that Michael would NOT be happy if he discovered I was in labor because Ami walked into our bedroom while he was sound asleep.  So I woke him up.

He worked on making the bed while I scrubbed out the tub, and Ami arrived while I was in the middle of this.  "Looks like not much change if you're cleaning the tub!" she laughed.  But I was starting to feel like things were moving.  When I'd been meditating in a dark room things felt pretty easy, but with all the activity I started to feel like things were picking up.  The shaking was getting stronger.  I finished cleaning the tub.

Things get a little blurry but I remember having a few contractions where in the breath or two where they were most intense my mind said "tub!"  I asked Ami if I could take a bath, and she said sure.  Michael filled up the tub for me.  IN the meantime I had a moment where I felt I would throw up and rushed to the toilet.  I told myself to relax & let it happen; it might make me feel better.  But, just as with John's birht, the feeling passed & I was just left with the feeling of "wow,  there's a lot of momentum!"  I told Ami things were starting to feel fast. and she should call Nancy (who was supposed to be going on vacation, but had super graciously offered to come to the birth).

I got in the tub & instantly felt better; so much so that I worried for a minute that maybe I had gotten in too soon.  But in a few contactions I started to feel like the baby was descending.  "Ami, if you're going to do the antibiotics, better get them in now!" I called out, and she came right over & placed the IV while I was in the tub.  The antibiotics were in a few minutes.  

Not long afterwards I started to feel even more pressure; I remember Virginia losing the heartbeat during a contraction & thinking it was because the baby was lower than where she was listening. I took the doptones & tried myself & did a much worse job than she was doing.  I felt pretty sheepish about that and reminded myself to try to be a mother, not a meddling doctor!

I had a contraction where I felt my body start to push, and called out for Ami.  She came over a checked and said I was almost there.  I started rattling off questions--"Can you feel the water bag?"  "No."  "Ha, well, there you go.''  "does she have Hair?  How low is she?"  Everyone started laughing at me and told me to slow down & go easy on grilling Ami.

Ami asked where i wanted to have the baby.  I wanted to go to bed so I could help catch her, so after the next contraction I got up, Nancy toweled me off, and i climbed in bed on hands and knees.  I wanted to hold on to MIchael, so he sat down in bed and I put my arms around him, which felt great.  He felt so solid, and i could lean into him (and the headboard) when the pressure was strongest & feel really grounded.  After a few more contractions I really wanted to help out with the pushing but I wanted to make sure all the cervix was gone, so I asked Ami to check.  She said I was 10cm and nice and low, so go for it!

I started pushing in earnest and felt like I was making loud grunting and moaning noises, but Heidi & Michael tell me it was actually really quiet & have teased me about my "stealth birthing" technique.  I was surprised how quickly I started to feel stretching, and reached down to check, only to find a big bulging bag.  I laughed and told Ami there as a forebag after all, and on the next contraction or 2, it opened with a loud "pop!" and big splash of clear water that evidently almost made Heidi pass out.

When I thought she was going to start crowning I turned around so I could catch her, but trying to lie on my back gave me a sharp pain in my low belly & I exclaimed.  Nancy urged me to turn on my side, which I did and felt instantly better.  As Elizabeth crowned, I flexed her head to keep things feeling ok, and marveled at how hard it was to distinguish her head from my perineum--it felt sort of numb from all the pressure I guess.  As she crowned I felt like I wanted to freeze, and Ami had to remind me to let my knee drop out to the side.  I decided it'd be best to ease her out between contractions & told Ami as much, and then her head came out nice and gently.  At that point I felt a squirmy little hand posteriorly and told Ami "hand!"  she swept the hand out easily (Heidi says I told her "good job!") but the arm wouldn't easily deliver any further.  "let me do it myself," I insisted, but the hand was too slippery for me to get a grip.  We debated for a moment about getting a cloth so I could grip better; or turning around; and Ami (thankfully) said decisively, "just go ahead and push her out."  Which I did, and with Ami's protection, she came out without leaving so much as a scratch.

She was warm and soft wiggly, and took about a minute to get going full steam--I think she must have been a little shell shocked by having her head out for a minute or two before the rest of her came out (we could hear her trying to cry after only her head was born!).  I couldn't believe how much dark hair she had, and just melted into the bliss and gratitude of a healthy newborn . . . I don't think I've ever felt better than in those first moments of holding a new baby.