Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Magdalena's Birth Story: the epic version
(This birth story contains discussion of contractions, a cervix, pushing, and other details. Consider yourself warned. If you want a shorter, cleaner version, click here.)
I was just about to come to terms with the fact that Sasha 2.0 was never going to be born. She just wasn't. I had tried just about everything short of castor oil to try to get labor going, including having my membranes stripped twice (the most recent time being on Wednesday afternoon). The biggest natural labor-inducing tip is to take walks, but I was walking 2 - 4 miles a day with no results.
What I hadn't tried was stair climbing. So on Friday night after dinner, kind of on a whim, we climbed the eight flights of stairs to the top of the Bicentennial building on Middlebury campus. Afterwards, we went back down to the sixth floor and watched the sun set over a gorgeous Vermont countryside view.
Saturday (the next) morning, I had some bloody show. I made sure to go on a brisk walk down the garden path just in case that helped things to get going, but nothing else happened for the whole day. That night, we did the stairs again (Jeremy did them three times), and I watched the sun set again.
Sunday morning - Sasha 2.0's due date - 6 o'clock AM. I was loitering in bed, considering getting up to go to the bathroom, also considering whether or not to go to church, and if so, what the heck was I going to wear, when I rolled over. And my water broke. I believe the first words out of my mouth were, "ilhamdudlillah" (thanks be to God).
I went in the bathroom while telling Jeremy that my water broke. His answer? "How do you know?" Well, once he took a look at the amount of fluid we were talking about, it was kind of obvious. He got dressed and then (I'm not kidding) immediately started grading his students' Arabic homework so he could get ahead of schedule before the baby came.
I called my mom to tell her to start getting ready to come over, and then I called the midwife (Martha). She said to come in when the contractions got started, or between 8-10am if they hadn't started to get a non-stress test done. Fortunately, contractions did get started, around 6.30am. My mom eventually arrived, Jeremy continued to grade homework, I was eating and getting ready to go to the birthing center, and Miriam was sleeping.
At about 8.30, a Middlebury College police officer arrived to take Jeremy and me to the hospital. Her first concern was that I would make a mess on the seat of her car, so we made sure to tell her that I would be sitting on a towel (she was really nice otherwise). Miriam and Grandma headed off to eat breakfast and go to church. At this point, I was thinking that Miriam would have time to have a normal day (church, lunch, nap) and then come over and still see some exciting Sasha 2.0 action.
We got to the hospital and they did a non-stress test. Everything was fine with the baby, so they went ahead and put us in a birthing room. I kept walking around to encourage the contractions, while reading Breaking Dawn. I was afraid to sit down or lie down because I just didn't want to stall labor. I was still eating and drinking to keep my strength up. Meanwhile, outside, it was absolutely pouring down rain.
At about 11am, the contractions were bad enough that Jeremy helped me get the tub set up with some nice hot water. I got all situated in the water and we rigged up my iPod Shuffle on one of the many handlebars in the tub so I could listen to it without worrying about dropping it in the water. Jeremy brought me some cold ginger ale and then he turned down the lights, went out, and closed the door. I drew the shower curtain so I was completely alone and secluded. Just me, my music, my ginger ale, and my bath. And oh yeah, labor. Increasingly difficult labor.
I'll skip over all this and it's for the same reason I wanted to be entirely by myself in there: that way, I didn't have to prove to anyone how badly it hurt. It just did. But I was the only one who had to know about it. Jeremy popped in from time to time to refill my drinks or adjust the water, and the nurse came in a few times to listen to the baby's heartbeat on a (wireless, waterproof) doppler.
At 12.35ish, Martha (the midwife) came in and I asked her to check me for the first time since being in labor. She said I was a 5. It was about what I expected. Then she left and I continued on by myself.
Meanwhile, according to the labor notes, Jeremy was in the birthing room watching Arabic stuff on YouTube and also reading Breaking Dawn.
At 1.45, I was getting a little bit pushy. The contractions were coming very strong, almost right on top of one another with no break in between. Again, from Jeremy's labor notes, apparently another woman in the birthing center was making quite a bit of uncomfortable-sounding noise, which Jeremy hoped I couldn't hear in the bathroom. I couldn't (probably a very good thing). At this point, I was out of the tub water and sitting on a chair with water from the shower flowing onto my back.
At 2.18, I told Jeremy to tell the nurse that I couldn't resist pushing for much longer. This concerned the nurses because Martha was right in the middle of catching a baby (possibly the screaming woman's?).
At 2.21, Martha or no Martha - and thankfully, she showed up right then after having delivered the other baby at 2.20 - I was on the bed in a side-lying position and ready to push. The nurse checked me and said I was still only a 9, but Martha gave me the go-ahead to push if my body felt like it. It did, so I did.
3.03pm: Magdalena Sonora Palmer is born. Jeremy pretty much catches her, and then she is placed directly on my chest, skin to skin. The placenta takes another 12 minutes to deliver, by which time I think Jeremy had already cut the cord. Eventually they wrap her up and she nurses more or less right away. An hour later, they get around to weighing and measuring her: 8lbs., 7 oz. and 19 inches long, with a 13-inch head circumference.
Other random details:
After it was all over, both the nurses and Martha apologized to me for not being more involved in my labor. I guess they felt guilty since I progressed so fast and they had been taking care of the woman who delivered just before me. However, this ended up being perfect for me - I wanted to be entirely alone during labor, and that's what ended up happening. I didn't plan it that way, or even suspect that ahead of time, so it worked out well that they were distracted.
Grandma Palmer called on Jeremy's cell phone right in the middle of pushing. I don't know who to blame more: Grandma for calling, or Jeremy for leaving his stupid cell phone on. :)
Grandma Walker and Miriam showed up around 5pm after their normal Sunday. But contrary to my expectations from earlier in the day, the birth was already over by then.
About "going natural" (you'll notice I had a drug-free delivery, without an IV or anything): LOVED it. I can't believe I did it, but I did, and it was amazing. So many factors contributed to me being able to go through labor naturally. First, the birthing center doesn't offer epidurals (for anesthesiologist/small-town reasons, though they do offer intrathecals and other lesser medications). Second, none of the nurses or the midwife ever asked me if I wanted anything for the pain. Third, for several reasons connected with Miriam's birth experience, I really wanted to avoid any pain medication. Fourth and fifth were being able to labor in the tub, unshackled by monitors of any kind, and also being able to listen to music.
The music I listened to during labor: two songs from the soundtrack of Dear Frankie, the soundtrack of The Last of the Mohicans, and the best one of all that I ended up listening to over and over again during the worst contractions, and then humming to myself while pushing: "Now We Are Free" from Gladiator (Thanks, Crys!).
All that and I still feel like there is more to tell. I'm sure you'll let me know if I left anything major out, if that is even possible.
I feel so blessed to have had an amazing birth experience.