Friday, January 22, 2016

Jude Katheryn's Birth Story

Be warned! It's a birth story, so there are intimate details here. And it's long because it's one of my favorite topics and it's mostly written for my own memory's sake and I included only the details I think are basically all of them. Read on if you so choose...

As the end of my pregnancy approached, I was focused on a few key milestones: finishing my semester, getting final grades submitted, and having Jason home for Christmas break. For a couple months I stressed about all of these things happening before baby's arrival. On Friday, December 18, we reached them all. I submitted my grades, baked cookies with the boys, and celebrated when Jason walked in the door after school was released for the next two weeks. I was due the 21st, and felt like I might actually go into labor close to my due date this time around {laugh laugh}. 

Let's backtrack for a minute. A couple weeks before this I had consistent contractions during work one day. They were 5 minutes apart while I taught two classes and tried to figure out if it was the real thing. A trip to the hospital that evening proved that it was not the real thing. But Jason and I had decided that if we felt like we should go in, we'd go in, even if it meant being sent home. {Being sent home was anxiety-inducing when I was pregnant for Milo, which prevented us from heading in as soon as we should have. It made for a stressful drive and a frantic triage situation that we did not want to repeat.} So, on December 8, we returned from the hospital feeling slightly discouraged, but Jason reassured me that we still needed to stick to the plan. We live a good 35 minutes from the hospital and, judging by how low this baby was and comments made by my midwife, once my labor started it was going to progress quickly. 

In the weeks following, I had strong contractions almost every evening. They would often develop a pattern, but never increase in intensity. Every day my hopes were raised and then dashed when the contractions subsided. I comforted myself with the idea that all these Braxton Hicks had to be doing something. Then, at my appointment on the 22nd {the day after my due date}, my midwife checked me and declared, "You're not doing anything." Awesome. She said if I made it to my appointment the following week, we'd talk about induction. At that point I gave up on the dream of baby arriving before the end of the week. In fact, my desire to go into labor shifted as we started celebrating Christmas Eve and preparing for Christmas Day. After going to church on Christmas Eve and talking about the next day's excitement, I really didn't want to put out cookies and milk, hype the boys up before bed, and then go into labor while they slept and miss out on Christmas Day with them. There was no need to worry though because that obviously didn't happen.

We had a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful holiday and then I resumed my desire to just. have. a baby! The morning of the 26th we went to the hospital for a scheduled non-stress test {the OB office was closed and I needed to have the test that weekend}. We passed with flying colors and, according to the nurses, "baby seems happy as can be in there!"

The next day, December 27, we decided to go see some friends and keep ourselves busy for the day. Distractions were needed since I basically felt like I was just sitting around waiting for labor to start and it was making me emotional and a real treat to live with, I'm sure. My parents were planning to visit that evening because an ice storm was predicted the next day {just try to tell my mom she can't see a new baby because she's trapped on the other side of the state...}. They arrived at our house around 6pm and we ate dinner, though I wasn't very hungry so I didn't eat much. Around 7:30 my mom and dad were putting the boys in bed while I started having my evening contractions. They were pretty strong and I started timing them while sitting on an exercise ball. They were anywhere from 12-17 minutes apart and not at all consistent, but somehow they felt different. One would be really intense for a minute and a half and I'd think about packing up our stuff, only to have the next one feel like a weak Braxton Hicks and last 25 seconds, putting doubt back in my mind. I decided if I was still having any harder ones by 9, I'd call my midwife. At 9:45, after doubting myself several more times, I remembered our plan to ignore those doubts and finally called her. She agreed that with a long-ish drive to the hospital and the speed of my last labor, I should probably head in if I felt like this was real. 

By 10:15 we were out the door and began our somewhat pleasant drive to the hospital. Another big concern for this labor was having someone get to our house to watch the boys, knowing our exit would need to be kind of quick. We had friends and Jason's parents on standby, and a couple of back-up plans in place, but luckily my parents were already there, so I was feeling very relaxed as we headed out the door. My contractions continued with their irregular timing, though they were ranging from 8-15 minutes apart now, and each easy one was followed by a long, intense one. At one point I remember thinking, "the epidural is going to be a nice break," which assured me that this was most likely really happening. After a particularly gripping contraction I told Jason that if they tried to send us home I was going to put up a big fight because even though they were not 5 minutes apart yet, the tough ones were definitely tough.

We parked the car and walked into triage during a long break between contractions. Once I was in a room and gowned up, the nurse checked and I was dilated to 3!! I know some people walk around at a 3 for weeks, but for someone who "wasn't doing anything" a week ago, this was the greatest news. Jason and I looked at each other with huge smiles, just so relieved that something was actually happening. The nurse said she had to monitor baby for ten minutes, then I'd be fine to get up and walk {no thanks!} or get in the tub {yes please!} for an hour or so before they checked my progress and decided what to do. 

Five minutes later she was back. "OK, we're going to start your IV and get you into your delivery room." After seeing our startled faces she explained, "I just talked to your midwife who said you're post-date and we should admit you and give you whatever you need." Party time!

At this point the contractions had become consistent in timing and intensity. I was handling them pretty well, but on our way up to labor and delivery my nurse asked if I wanted my epidural right away. I wasn't used to having the option so early in labor while I was still in such a calm state of mind {I was dilated to 8 when I got it with Gehrig and 9 with Milo}, so it took me a minute to realize that I didn't have to be dealing with transition contractions that were on top of each other in order to request the epidural. I happily agreed to get it and as we got situated in the room, Jason and I remarked how calm we both felt. I dared not comment how smoothly it was going, but I did think it silently. And said many prayers afterward.

Around 12:30am, anesthesia arrived and I got my epidural. By this point I was definitely happy to have relief from the peak of the contractions. Soon after, my midwife, Brenda, arrived and checked me. I was dilated to 4. She then asked if I wanted her to break my water. I wasn't sure, but she said, "The baby's head is right there. As soon as I break your water, this is going to go pretty quick." So I told her to do it. Over the next couple hours, I enjoyed the effects of the epidural, talked to Jason in a quiet, dimly lit room, and closed my eyes every now and then to try and rest. It was sort of bizarre to watch the monitors, knowing my contractions were so strong and close together, but not feel it. Around 2:30 they checked again and I was at a 6. Things were moving quickly but not too quickly. It all felt perfect.

My biggest discomfort at this point was the hunger pains. I hadn't had a big dinner and all I wanted was food. Unfortunately my hospital doesn't allow food for laboring women {come on! give us sustenance!} so Jason and I just had to laugh every time my stomach growled. It was so loud! I felt bad that in some ways I was more excited to eat at the end of this labor than to meet my baby. But I suppose any motivation is good, right?

I was still at a 6 the next time they checked me about 45 minutes later, so the nurse had me sit up to try to use gravity to get the baby's head directly on my cervix and really speed things up. I was sitting comfortably until around 3:45 when I started feeling horrible back labor. I'd had back labor with Gehrig and remembered it all-to-well. Jason had just fallen asleep, so I tried putting my own counter-pressure on my lower back. With my fists behind me, I pushed my back into them with each contraction. When this wasn't quite doing the trick, I woke Jason and asked him to do the same thing. My nurse, Bailie, came in and I told her what was going on. She had me lay on one side in case the baby was turning a bit, causing the back labor, and said that she'd help me turn to the other side in 20 minutes. She gave Jason heat packs, which he held on my back and hips between contractions and then replaced them with his fists as I shoved my back against him during the contractions. Twenty minutes later, at 4:15, my nurse came back and said, "before we move you to the other side, let me check you...Oh yeah, you're complete. That's pressure you're feeling and it's time to push!" Jason grabbed my hand and we had this really peaceful moment soaking up the final minutes before meeting our new baby.

Five minutes later, my midwife was there and we were getting ready to push. Bailie, who was such a sweetheart and joyful presence the entire night, started taking a poll of gender guesses. I said girl, as did Brenda and Bailie, and Jason was left alone in his boy guess. One other nurse came in to help with the delivery and she said girl, too. They told me to push when I was ready. Since the epidural was masking the contractions, I was actually happy to have the back labor telling me when they were happening. I pushed twice through the next contraction and the baby crowned! "That definitely looks like a girl's head!" said my nurse. Then she turned to me, "One more push and this baby will be out." And she was right. I pushed once on the next contraction and I caught a glimpse of a baby slipping out easily into Brenda's arms before she held up this amazing little person for us to see. I sob-laughed, "It's a girl!!" as I grabbed her and laid her on my belly. They cleaned her off, rubbing her bluish tint into a lovely pink as Jason and I just stared at her and each other. I cut the cord, something I've never gotten to do, and savored our hour of skin-to-skin. She nursed like a pro and I blissfully ate a muffin and crackers while thinking about what I'd order for breakfast once the kitchen opened. 

The whole experience was so surreal. If I could make up my perfect labor and delivery story, this would be it. As her birth indicated, Jude has been a peaceful baby so far. We are settling in the best we can with her loud and loving brothers. We are tired and I am sort of a mess, but all-in-all everything is lovely, especially Jude.