Contractions started on Wednesday, October 17, sometime around 6 or 7pm, but I thought that they were more of the same Braxton Hicks contractions that I had been experiencing for the last few months. Having just been to the doctor earlier that afternoon for my 38 (and a half) week appointment, I assumed that the increased frequency of the contractions was due to the exam. So I didn't think much of it when they started. It was a nice warm evening, and I was busy in the park with Bonnie, Bruce, and Elsa. We had done a little photo shoot with Elsa in her Detroit Tigers outfit, which was followed by some swinging and then chatting with a father and his three little girls. Carmen had gone inside to work on dinner, and Steve and Dan joined us for a while when they got home from work.
I had always pictured walking around the neighborhood while in early labor, trying to get contractions going, like my mother did when she was in labor with me. I guess I did end up spending some of that time outside, standing around by the swings; I just didn't know it was the beginning of labor. I was 2cm dilated at my appointment that day, and I had been 1cm for at least two weeks before that, so I probably didn't have as far to go in that stage anyway.
When we went inside that evening, Steve started dinner—zucchini carbonara—and I started going through the pictures I had taken. About halfway through, I noticed that the contractions were getting just a little more uncomfortable. They also seemed to be pretty frequent, so I decided to try out the contraction timer app that I had gotten for my phone. If nothing else, it seemed like a good time to figure out how to use it before the real thing. That was at 7:34pm, and the contractions ended up being about 5 minutes apart, although they weren't necessarily each a minute long.
I timed contractions through dinner, but I took a break for an hour while Steve and I loaded the dishwasher. Afterward, we watched a little more of Life After Top Chef, and I sat on the yoga ball for a while. Meanwhile, contractions continued. I started timing them again at about 9:20pm, and they were coming about every 3 minutes or so. They were also lasting closer to a minute each now.
Around 10pm, I decided that maybe I should finish up my hospital packing, just in case we needed to head to CPMC that night. I had packed what I could already, but I had a list of things that couldn't be packed until the last minute. I was glad I had the list too, because it was hard to concentrate on what I might be forgetting when I was also timing contractions and trying to decide if I was actually in labor or not. Everything I had read about real contractions vs. Braxton Hicks seemed to say, "If you're really in labor, you'll know." Well, I didn't. The contractions were getting a little more uncomfortable, but I could still walk, talk, and pack through them.
Steve heard me rustling around in the bedroom and bathroom and came to see what I was up to. I told him I was packing... just in case...? and filled him in. He got a little nervous when I told him that the contractions were about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes apart and 45-60 seconds long. After all, the general rule for heading to the hospital is 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for 1 hour.
Once we were all packed, I called the 24-hour line and gave the nurse my details. She said to come on into the hospital, so Steve brought the car up to the house. It was a little before 11pm at this point, and Dan was out walking Enzo. So Dan and Carmen found out we were going to the hospital, and I spent part of the drive there texting Carmen while continuing to time contractions. She asked what they felt like, and I told her they felt like bad cramps. I still wasn't convinced that we weren't going to be sent home right away, but maybe I was just in denial.
We arrived at the hospital after 11pm, and lucked into one of the parking spots across the street from the entrance—one of the few streets not requiring a neighborhood permit for more than 2 hours of parking. After checking in at the OB Triage desk, we were shown to a small exam room, where I changed out of my clothes so they could look at my progress. I was now 3cm dilated and 100% effaced, so they admitted me around 11:30pm. Steve called his parents, I texted Carmen, and I also made a quick post to Facebook to indicate that I might have a baby soon. Our first labor/delivery nurse, Leah, came down to get us not long after, and we took the elevator up to our room on the second floor. That's where the rest of the action happened.
I was hooked up to the monitors on and off for a while, and Steve and I settled in a bit. The contractions slowly got more intense over the next few hours. At first, I was able to get through them just fine. When I was allowed out of bed, I took a few pictures. I also brushed my teeth, took off my mascara from earlier in the day, and removed my contacts. All this with only a minute or two at a time of being pain-free.
At 2:30am, I was about 4cm dilated, and the contractions were getting worse. I had been texting Carmen—she was still awake—and bouncing on the yoga ball a little, but by then I was needing more help from Steve. What seemed to work the best was leaning over the bed or being on all fours while Steve did a combination of two of the lower back/hip massages that we learned in the childbirth prep class. I didn't really use the breathing we learned, though. I just stuck with breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, rather more forcefully as the pain got worse. I could have walked around the hospital floor to move things along faster, but the thought of straying from my room when I would just have to stop for contractions every minute or two was pretty unappealing.
I decided to try the shower sometime between 3-4am. I was ready for something different, and the warm water helped for a little while. The nurse gave me about 15-20 minutes in there, which was about right. By the end, even the warm water wasn't helping, and I decided that it was about time for the epidural. It meant that I would have to stay in bed for the rest of the time, but I was tired enough by 4am that I was ready to lie down without being in pain.
Of course, the anesthesiologist had to finish up with someone else first, so there was a span of 15-30 minutes before I actually got the epidural. (Just in case I needed more contractions to confirm that I wanted it.) The worst part was the length of time it took once the anesthesiologist started, when I had to be sitting still, hunched over through my contractions, rather than in a position that allowed Steve to continue the massaging. It felt really odd when the anesthesiologist administered the drugs—like nails on a chalkboard—but I was feeling much better soon. My legs went mostly numb, my toes felt like they had been in winter boots in the cold for too long, and more importantly, I couldn't feel the contractions anymore.
We were actually able to sleep for a couple hours after that, not that I actually fell asleep. Between the music playing on our iPod dock and everything going on in my head, I don't think I really slept at all. The bit of rest helped, though, and Steve got to sleep a little.
The nurse was back around 6am to check on my meds and such. That's also when they started me on pitocin. The epidural and being in bed had slowed down the labor, so they wanted to get things moving again. Then, when that hadn't produced a significant enough change, the doctor broke my water at 7:20am. I was at about 5cm dilated then, but by about 10am, I was fully dilated with the baby at +1 or +2 station. The nurse told us that we would be ready to start pushing in about an hour!
|Steve, killing time|
At 11am, the baby was +2 or +3 station, and we were about ready to push. Since my doctor was off that day, we waited a little longer to see if she would be coming anyway to deliver the baby or if it would be the on-call doctor. It ended up being the on-call doctor, but she seemed nice too. (My doctor came by to see me the next morning and returned to do the baby's circumcision later.)
Pushing lasted about an hour and a half, from 11:30am to 1pm, and we had two nurses during that time. Leah had gone home after the night shift ended and had been replaced by Mary Kate, who I liked even better. Mary Kate was 34 weeks pregnant herself and reminded me a little of Ingrid Michaelson. When she took a break for lunch, the charge nurse took over for a bit. She noticed Steve's "Praise the Lard" t-shirt, and chatted with us about food between pushes.
The actual pushing was pretty interesting. With the epidural, I couldn't feel a whole lot, so I had to rely on the nurse to tell me when I was having a contraction at first. But by the end, I was feeling the tension and the urge to push on each one. I would have to push for a count of ten, take a quick breath, push for another ten, breathe, and push again. Mostly, I just focused on tensing up my abs and thinking in the upward direction like they told me to. The nurses seemed happy with my pushing skills, so I guess I didn't take as long as some people.
They asked me toward the end if I wanted reach down and feel the baby's head. I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about it, but I said yes anyway. I was glad that I did; it was pretty strange, but it was also kind of cool to feel the soft hair on his head before I could actually see it.
The doctor came in for the last few pushes, and before I knew it, Evan's (slightly cone-shaped) head was out. That was quickly followed by the rest of him, and he started to cry. It was kind of a squeaky cry that sounded like a baby pterodactyl. They laid him on my chest, and he was slightly grayish from all the white vernix that was covering his skin. I couldn't believe how much of it there was and how sticky it turned out to be, but he was also soft and warm. Meanwhile, he had stopped crying, but he was still whimpering a little. For how alien he looked and sounded, he was pretty cute.
Mary Kate took Evan to the other side of the room after a few minutes so she could clean him off and do all the necessary newborn procedures while the doctor stitched me back up. Evan also got a sponge bath then. His temperature had been a little high—probably because it was a warm day—and the sponge bath cooled him off a bit. Steve watched the whole process, taking pictures and videos with my camera.
Once Evan was done and ready, he was swaddled up and handed back to Steve. Mary Kate took a picture of the three of us, which turned out to be slightly out of focus, but oh well.
And just like that, we had a baby.
born at 1:09pm on October 18, 2012
21 inches long