Well, it's been a month now, so I guess it's time I finally buckled down and got my birth story finished. It's very long. If you want the shorter version, skip ahead to where it says in bold, "this is where the story really begins". If you want the REALLY short version, skip to the last paragraph.
Jackson Dylan was born at 3:48AM on April 10, 2008. He weighed 9 lbs, 7.9 ounces, and was 20 inches long.
I don't even know where to begin. I can't really say when my birthing time started. I'd been having wildly irregular pressure waves for a couple of weeks, averaging maybe one or two an hour. Some of them were normal braxton-hicks, I could barely tell I was having one unless I put my hand on my belly. Some of them were a little more intense and were followed by a minute or two of intense downward pressure. Some of them were intense, were accompanied by downward pressure, and lasted five minutes or more. I woke up on Sunday the 6th with one that was nine minutes long, and I thought for sure that "today is the day". But I got out of bed, ate a little bit, and nothing else happened. I went to yoga class, thinking, "wouldn't it be cool if I was that woman who went to yoga class in the morning and had my baby that afternoon." I had one pressure wave during class, which I'm pretty sure was brought on by the pose we were doing, but that was it.
Sunday afternoon we went to Ala Moana mall for a Navy Big Band concert. We parked far away so I would have to walk (and, well, because it was Sunday afternoon and parking spaces were hard to come by). We went to dinner at Macaroni Grill afterwards so that I could have something with lots of basil and oregano (and also for one last dinner out for God knows how long). We drove home on bumpy roads, which was unintentional, but pretty much unavoidable - the roads here are starting to suck almost as much as the ones in New Orleans. It's like freakin' off-roading. I thought for sure that something was going to get started. Nope, nothing.
Monday afternoon I went to the chiropractor and she adjusted a ligament on the left side of my pelvis. By this point Brian was starting to get worried about me driving, especially by myself and to the other side of the island (my chiropractor is in Kailua) but I don't think I had a single pressure wave the whole afternoon.
Tuesday morning, I was sitting on the couch with Brandon and I suddenly got an idea. "Brandon, would you like to go for a walk in the stroller today?" His face lit up. "Yes!" We used to go for walks almost every day, but they kind of tapered off as it got harder and harder for me to push around a 30+ pound toddler in a 20 pound stroller. We had gotten into the habit of always having a destination for our walks, either the drugstore at the bottom of the big hill, or Jamba Juice or the Navy Exchange or the bank, off in the other direction, but the last time we walked to Jamba Juice I ended up spotting for two days (this was around 34 or 35 weeks) so we just stopped going for walks altogether. But at this point, I wanted to get something going, so I figured it couldn't hurt. But I didn't want to walk 45 minutes to Jamba Juice, have my water break or something, and be stuck there, so we just went for a destination-less walk around the neighborhood - which was weird for me, but actually kind of nice. We ended up at one of the playgrounds and Brandon was having a grand old time, and it was really really nice to be outside in the fresh air, but I realized that I had forgotten my phone, so I had to bribe him back into the stroller with the promise of a hot dog when we got home. (It was lunchtime anyway.) The last thing I needed was for Brian to call to check up on me and freak out when I didn't answer.
During quiet time I finally got around to trying EFT. I had been meaning to try it for a while, but I wanted to read through the entire manual first. At this point, though, I knew that something was holding me back from starting my birthing time and I figured that anything I could do to help it along would help, so I found the pages in the manual that describe the technique, printed them out, and went to it. This is going to sound really wacky, but EFT involves tapping on certain points around your body (kind of like accupressure, actually they are accupressure points) while focusing on whatever negative emotion you want to get rid of, the theory being that negative emotions are caused by imbalances in your body's energy, and by re-balancing, you can get rid of the negativity. Or something like that. It sounds really new-agey and woowoo, but hey, it couldn't hurt, right? Worst case scenario, it doesn't work and I wasted a couple of minutes of my day. Well anyway, I tapped on aspects of my first birthing, I tapped on some issues that had fed into the problems I had with my first birthing, and I tapped on some apprehension about being a mother of two. Then Brandon's quiet time was up and we went about the rest of our day.
*this is where the story really begins*
On Wednesday I was having pressure waves every 10-15 minutes, pretty much all day, but they weren't that intense - not nearly enough to make me stop what I was doing. I had a midwife appointment at 1:45 so I got my stuff together and baked the brownies for the nurses, just in case they ended up keeping me there. Brian came home from work and we all went to the hospital.
I wasn't 100% certain that I wanted to be checked. I knew that if I was still at 1cm I would just want to die - I would not be able to handle that. In the end, though, I decided to go ahead and get checked, and Hallelujah, I was at 4cm, 50% effaced, -1 station. I threw my arms up in the air and exclaimed "woohoo!" The midwife (who happened to be the one who had been on call during most of Brandon's birthing) asked if I wanted her to strip my membranes. Now membrane stripping is not really something that I would have wanted under normal circumstances, but I had been averaging 2 pressure waves per hour for the past week and a half, my pelvis felt like it was about to fall apart, and my instinct in that moment was that yes, this was the right thing to do. So I said yes. She said that I would be crampy that night and she hoped not to see me at my appointment the following week. And then we went home.
I definitely started to feel crampy, but it was a constant crampy feeling that seemed independent of the pressure waves, so I didn't really think anything of it. Still, it seemed like a good idea to call Tammy, my doula, and give her a heads up, so I called her after dinner and let her know what was going on - pressure waves about 10-15 minutes apart all day but not that intense, 4cm dilated, membranes stripped. I told her I was thinking maybe the following day.
As soon as I got off the phone with her, things intensified a little bit. I kept on doing the dishes (with the Birthing Day Affirmations playing in the background) so that I would have something to concentrate on, then I sat down on the couch to watch Surf's Up with Brandon. I started paying more attention to the frequency of the pressure waves, and they were wildly irregular. The timing was something like: 6 minutes, 6, 9, 4, 8, 3, 12, 12. I stopped paying attention at that point.
Around 6:45, we took Brandon upstairs for his bath. While Brian got the bath ready, I sat on the bed with Brandon and tried to call my friend Beth, who was going to be watching Brandon when we went to the hospital. I called her home phone and got the machine. I knew her parents were in town so I figured they were out to dinner or something and decided to try her cellphone, but I had to stop and moan through a couple of pressure waves first. I told her pretty much the same thing I had told Tammy: 10 minutes apart, not too intense but intensifying, 4cm. Probably tomorrow morning, but quite possibly tonight.
As soon as I got off the phone with Beth, everything slowed way down again. I gave Brandon his bath and we went through the whole bedtime routine. While I was laying in bed with him, I had a pressure wave that I had to vocalize through a little bit, and he put his arm around me. (How sweet is my little guy?) He cried a little when I left - I hate it when that happens. I had been staying with him until he fell asleep for the past few days but I really felt like I had to get into my own bed and get some rest.
I took a bath and got ready for bed. I guess I was still having pressure waves this whole time, but I can't really remember. I thought for sure that I would get a full night's sleep and wake up in the morning with things a bit more intense. Brandon woke up crying right as I was about to go to bed; I found him with his legs dangling off the bed, so I think he rolled over and started to fall. I laid down with him for a minute or two, and he went right back to sleep.
I got into bed around 9:30 and put the Fear Release session on my iPod. When that was over, I listened to Hypnotic Childbirth #2, I think, whichever one I was supposed to listen to that night. A while after that ended, I woke up and put on the Birth Guide, which I slept through. I woke up a few minutes before it ended and noticed that the pressure waves were now considerably more intense, and there was something trickling down my thigh. I didn't know whether it was amniotic fluid, or bloody show, but I didn't feel like coming out of hypnosis to get up and check, so I didn't. A few minutes later I realized that the track was ending, so I switched on and went into the bathroom. (This was at 12:36, I remember that very clearly.) It was definitely bloody show, and I had two or three pressure waves while I was up. I went back to the bedroom and leaned on the bed and vocalized for the next pressure wave, which of course woke Brian up. I told him very calmly that they seemed to be pretty close together now, and I guess he was paying attention to the clock while he got dressed and brushed his teeth or whatever, because the next thing I knew he was handing me my pants to change into and calling people. I don't remember who he called first, whether it was Beth or Tammy, but I heard him telling someone that the surges were a minute and a half apart and we were going to the hospital. I reminded him to page the midwives and let them know we were coming. When they called back, it turned out that the midwife on call was the same one who had delivered Brandon. I hadn't seen her since my postpartum check over two years ago, but I like her a lot and was really glad that she was on call.
Beth got to our house super fast and we went out to the car. I had to stop for a pressure wave before I got in, and I had three during the drive (we live really close). I was in the middle of one when we went through the security gate (it's an Army hospital), which was not really fun because the road is really torn up and bumpy right after the gate. There were TONS of parking spaces (for once!), being that it was 1am-ish. I happened to not be having a pressure wave when we got up to L&D, and I was able to smile and say hi to Laurie (the midwife), who was sitting at the admissions desk waiting for us. From that point on, though, I was pretty much in my own world and not really paying much, if any, attention to what was going on around me. (I'd been listening to the Birth Guide on my iPod since...I don't know. Maybe since I'd gotten in the car?)
One of the nurses commented that she liked my tshirt (I was wearing my favorite "maternity" shirt - a tshirt that says "I gave my word to stop at third - 1986 Teen Abstinence Day") and I heard her, but I kept my head down on the desk and didn't respond. Brian did exactly what he was supposed to do and told everyone very nicely that I was using hypnosis and they shouldn't talk to me while I was having a pressure wave. Everyone was really great about it (even though we forgot to bring the "bribe" brownies), or maybe they weren't and I just didn't notice. I'm not really sure, but at any rate, I didn't get distracted as easily as last time.
They took me back to a triage room for my required 20 minutes of monitoring. I was kind of dreading this because it was the point at which I lost my focus with Brandon and the hypnosis went completely out the window, mostly because they told me to sit in the bed and it never occurred to me that it might be okay for me to get into a different position. This time I told them as soon as I sat down, "This hurts" (it did, a lot) and they told me I could get into whatever position I wanted as soon as the monitors were hooked up. So I knelt, resting my head on my arms on the back of the bed. I did okay, but I still hated it.
Tammy arrived at some point while I was being monitored. She was there for probably at least 5 or 10 minutes before I even looked up at her. I'm pretty sure my water broke at some point while I was in there, but there wasn't any kind of obvious "popping" sensation - I just kind of gradually became aware that there was a gush with each pressure wave. I felt nauseous, so they got an emesis bin for me, but the feeling passed.
When the 20 minutes was finally up, I turned around so I could get up off the bed, declared that I was going to throw up, did so, and then walked to the LDR room (they put me in the closest one). I heard somebody saying that I was 7cm (I already knew this; I don't remember whether they checked me before or after the monitoring but I do vaguely remember being checked), something like 75-80% effaced and at -1 station. I remember being disappointed that he hadn't moved down any lower since that afternoon, which I guess was kind of a weird reaction to have considering that I wasn't fully dilated or even effaced yet, but I guess something was telling me that he should have been lower, but wasn't for some reason. (More on that later.)
They had already started filling up the tub for me while I was being monitored, but it still wasn't ready yet when I got to the LDR room. I stood next to the bed (in a puddle of amniotic fluid), hanging onto Tammy for a few pressure waves (Brian was...I don't know, somewhere) and then switched to Brian when he got back.
Finally the tub was ready and I made my way into the bathroom to climb on in. The water was hot and wonderful. I was doing things kind of backwards from a Hypnobabies point of view - rather than switching off and going limp during pressure waves and then coming back up in between, I was getting up on my knees during the pressure waves (the only way they were bearable) and resting in between, although it was getting harder and harder to find a comfortable position to rest in, and the breaks were getting shorter and shorter.
I have to admit, I wasn't exactly the poster child for hypnotic childbirth. I vocalized through every pressure wave, and I got pretty loud at times. It kind of got away from me every once in a while, but Tammy would remind me to keep my voice low (as opposed to high and squeaky) and Brian used the "Peace" and "Relax" cues a lot. He also counted back from 5 to 1 many times. Most of the time I counted out loud with him; I would start out in a kind of pinched, stressed out holler and end up mumbling comfortably by the time we got down to one. So I didn't exactly use that cue as it's intended (to go deeper and deeper into hypnosis, with a wave of relaxation going through your body with each number), but it did definitely help! So even though I lost it a little bit from time to time, I was usually able to bring myself back into focus, and if I couldn't do it myself, my support people were awesome at helping me out.
I wasn't really listening to the Birth Guide, but it was on on my iPod. There's one line from the Birthing Day Affirmations (which I had listened to several times over the past couple of weeks), I don't know if it's on the Birth Guide as well, but it really stuck with me and helped me tremendously: "I am safe and my baby is safe, no matter how much power is moving through me." I can't even begin to tell you how much that affirmation helped while I was in that tub. It was INCREDIBLY intense but I never once felt like I was in danger, like I was going to die, like I was going to split in half - any of those things that people tell you you're going to feel like when you're in transition. I just felt like I had to stay focused and get through it.
I kept on saying "I can't do this", but I didn't really mean that I didn't think I could do it - it was more like I just didn't want to. And this might sound strange, but by expressing this feeling out loud, I felt like I was able to let go of it much more easily than if I had tried to ignore it.
At some point while I was in the tub, my back started hurting, and as soon as I said this, Brian remembered what the triage nurse told him last time and started rubbing my back with each surge. He later told me that he could feel the baby's head through my back, just like with Brandon. He said it felt exactly the same as last time from his end - to me it totally didn't. Maybe because he was giving such awesome counter-pressure this time - he said he was pushing so hard, he was on the verge of just sticking his knee in my back.
I don't remember feeling an actual urge to push, per se, I just suddenly got the idea that maybe it would feel better if I pushed a little during the surges, so I did. I tried doing some "exhale pushing", and while I didn't really feel like I was making any progress while doing so, it made the pressure waves MUCH easier to handle. It really just felt like the right thing to do. I didn't tell anybody that I was pushing, but I'm pretty sure Tammy could tell after a few minutes. There were a couple of times when I lost it a little bit and I felt my energy getting tense and moving upward, if that makes sense, but the second that happened, Tammy would say "down and out, with the baby" - so really, she was right there with me and knew exactly what I needed to hear.
I switched the track on my iPod to the "Pushing Baby Out" track, and after a few minutes, I started pushing a little harder - not really "exhale pushing" anymore, kind of holding my breath and bearing down a little. After a few minutes of that I looked at Laurie and told her it felt good to push, and she told me to go ahead. A few minutes after that I felt like I had to get out of the water.
I made my way to the bed and laid down on my right side. (Why my right side...I don't know, it's just how I ended up.) The back of the bed was up and it was VERY uncomfortable to be bent at an angle like that so they lowered the back of the bed. I started really pushing. (I had really wanted to do the whole exhale pushing, let your body do the work kind of birthing but it didn't feel right. My body was telling me to PUSH, so I did.) But the baby wasn't moving down.
Laurie suggested I try squatting, which seemed totally logical, so I tried, but somehow the closest I could come was the same kneeling, facing the back of the bed position I had been in earlier. (They raised the back of the bed again as I was shifting position, I guess.) The pillow was on top of the end of the bed, but it was wet from my hair so I flipped it over, and at this point Brian cracked the one single joke of the evening: he quoted Family Guy. (I tried to find a clip but couldn't... remember when Peter flips his pillow over, and Billy Dee Williams is there and he says, "Hey Peter, I'm the cooooool side of the pillow!"?? That's what Brian said.) It was totally appropriate, though, because believe it or not, I was thinking the same thing!
As soon as I got upright, I just plain didn't feel like I could push anymore. I can't explain it, it kind of felt like I had no leverage or something and I just plain didn't want to push. Laurie said I didn't have to push, I could lie back down and rest for a little while. So I got back on my side...and when the next pressure wave hit, I started pushing again.
At this point, Laurie checked me and I was actually only at a 9.5. She tried holding back the lip of cervix while I pushed but it hurt too much. We tried again and it was completely unpleasant but it worked.
So now the baby was past my cervix but still kind of stuck. Laurie suggested that I try pushing on my back, holding my knees, for a couple of pushes. I expressed concern about tearing, but she assured me that I could roll back onto my side once he had gotten past the pubic bone. So I got on my back, held my knees and pushed like a mofo. It only took one pressure wave (with several short pushes - I didn't purple push, if I felt like I had to breathe, I DID), but I didn't feel like I could move (what with the head in my birth canal and all) so I stayed there for a couple more surges before I got back on my side.
At some point while I was pushing, the "Pushing Baby Out" track ended, and I asked Brian to hand me my iPod so I could restart it. Everyone seemed to be impressed that I was able to operate my iPod while pushing (well, between surges obviously) but it didn't seem like a big deal to me. I guess women are usually a little more out of it during this stage than I was?
It felt like it took FOREVER to push this baby out. I could feel the baby's head just kind of sitting there and after a while I kept on wondering, "why isn't he OUT yet?" Actually I said that out loud a few times. At one point I looked at Brian and said, "I can't push anymore." He replied, "well, when you're done here, you never have to do it again." And that was actually very motivating for me! I had thought that my epidural had worn off by the time I pushed Brandon out, but let me tell you - it HADN'T. Oh, it had mostly worn off, but I most definitely did NOT feel everything. I really wouldn't call it painful, but it wasn't exactly pleasant, either.
When he finally started to crown, it was a very strange sensation; I could feel his nose and his ears and it was NOT a comfortable feeling. It felt like someone was reaching their fingers in and grabbing the baby's head - I actually told Laurie to get out of there because it hurt, but everyone told me that she was actually nowhere near me at the time. (She later told me that she had said the same thing when she had her last baby a few months ago.)
Finally, finally, finally...his head was out. The cord was wrapped around his neck twice, so I had to wait for a minute while Laurie got him untangled before I could push his body out - and let me tell you, for all of the intensity, the pushing while she held back the lip of cervix, the discomfort of having his head in my birth canal for what seemed like forever...this was the worst part. I was so ready to be DONE! And then, I was. He was out.
I was so tired and relieved that I just wanted to lie there and go to sleep. It took a lot of energy to turn my head and look at him, but once I did, I got a second wind and reached out to hold him. He was purple and it took him a little while to start crying, although he was breathing. His Apgars were 8/9 (he lost a point for color - his hands and feet stayed kind of bluish for quite a while). He rested on my chest with a blanket over us while we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. He pooped all over himself and me. When the cord stopped pulsing, they clamped it and Brian cut it, and then Brian went out in the hall to call our families.
Jackson was pretty uninterested in nursing, so I let the nurse take him to weigh and measure him while I got fixed up. I had one small tear (2 stitches) and two skid marks (not worth stitching). When the nurse announced from the other side of the room that he was 9 pounds, 7.9 ounces, my jaw just about hit the floor. Laurie and I looked at each other and she said, "and just two tiny little stitches!" Once again, I threw my arms up in the air, and I shouted, "I am a ROCK STAR!!!"
(Between the size of the baby and the cord being around his neck twice, it makes perfect sense that he had trouble moving down. It was all for the best, though...if he had come out too quickly I probably would have torn more.)
A little while later Laurie said "If he had been just one tenth of an ounce more, he would have been nine and a half pounds!" I replied that it was close enough for me and I was just going to round it up, and she said nope, you can't round up. Apparently the way they do it is to just shave off any decimal places, so officially he was 9 lbs, 7 oz; but screw that, my baby was nine and a half pounds!!
So that's the story: in labor all day without realizing it; woke up in transition and went right to the hospital; and three hours later I pushed out a nine and a half pound baby, drug free, with only two tiny stitches. The End.