Emma’s Birth Story – Part 3

If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2, you should probably read those first!

Once we got checked into the hospital, things actually slowed down for a while. I knew my water had broken, but aside from extremely minor cramps, I really didn’t feel anything yet. The general rule is that you need to deliver within 24 hours of your water breaking to avoid increased risk of infection, and I’d already “used up” at least 8-10 hours of my clock since I woke up that morning. Since it didn’t really feel like much was happening, I figured this meant I would have have pitocin to speed things up. I really didn’t want that — I’d heard from too many friends that pitocin makes contractions way more painful. Fortunately, since I was already close to 4 cm when I checked into the hospital, I was given a few hours reprieve! I had until about 7:00 p.m. to see whether labor would really begin on its own.

I was already settled into my oh-so-lovely hospital gown and they hooked me up to a heart rate monitor (measuring Emma’s heart rate) and a contraction monitor — both of which were VERY annoying and continued to be so for the rest of the night. First of all, the contraction monitor didn’t actually work very well — as things began to pick up later in the night, I would often have a strong contraction only to see nary a blip on the roll of paper the monitoring machine was slowly spitting out. And the heart rate monitor, though accurate enough, would NOT stay in place. Every time I shifted position, the heart rate monitor (which was secured around my belly with a big elastic belt) would move and lose track of Emma’s heart rate. This would set off some sort of notification at the nurse’s station, and within a minute or two someone would come in to readjust the monitor.

I was also hooked up to an IV as part of the check-in process, and that thing was ALSO annoying. The needle went into a vein in my forearm about halfway between my wrist and elbow, and if my arm deviated too much from a certain position, the needle would pull or poke in a most uncomfortable way.

When you see women having babies on TV or in movies, you see them walking up and down the hall of the hospital, pausing to lean against a wall or whatever. They’re in pain, but at least they have freedom of movement, right? Not so much in my experience! I could walk around the room, but I could only go about 10 feet before the cords to the contraction and heart rate monitors reached their full extension. And when I got to unhook the monitors to go to the bathroom, I still had to drag the IV pole along with me. I was basically limited to sitting on the bed, on a big bouncy ball, or standing somewhere between the bed and the door to the hallway. Oh well.

Despite all the annoying medical devices, Jose and I were both pretty giddy about the fact that we were about to have our BABY. WHOA.

athospital

After we were somewhat settled in, I called my parents. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hey Mom! So how’s Lucas (my hours-old nephew)?”

Mom: “Well it sounds like he is doing well! I can’t believe he came so early, I’m glad Brian got home in time, etc, etc, etc.”

Me: “Yeah me too. Sooo…guess where I am?”

Mom: “Where?”

Me: “Well, I’m at the hospital…”

Mom: “What??”

Me: “Yeah, so my water broke this morning but I didn’t realize it until this afternoon…so I’m going to have a baby sometime in the next 12 or so hours.”

Mom: “!!!”

Jose called his mom also, and within minutes he started getting text messages from all his aunts. News travels fast in his family!

Sometime around 7:00, the nurse came back in with the intention of starting me on pitocin. But her check showed that I was making some progress on my own and had made it to 4-5 cm, so I got another reprieve until midnight — and doctors orders that no one was to check my progress again until then. (Let’s just say there had been a lot of people up in my business up to that point.) Although I was feeling contractions on a regular basis now, they still weren’t that bad and I was happy to avoid intervention for a while longer. I even had a passing thought that maybe I wouldn’t even need an epidural! Oh, silly me.

The hours continued to pass while we sat in our little hospital room. Emma’s choice of arrival date fell smack in the middle of the Summer Olympics in London, and the track and field competition had just begun, so there were plenty of events to watch on TV that evening and into the wee hours. Around 9:00, I talked to my parents again — they were in Pennsylvania with some of my extended family, and one of my cousins had an iPhone so we were able to Facetime. It was kind of surreal to be talking to all of them from my hospital room. My mom said she was going to sleep soon, but would have her phone next to the bed all night!

hospital

I remember 9:00 as a turning point in the whole labor process. Before then, I had felt contractions slowly getting stronger, but they really weren’t too bad. I could talk and laugh through them, and complain good-naturedly about how the contraction monitor basically didn’t work at all. But after 9:00, things started to hurt more. They were still manageable, but definitely not pleasant — and growing more and more unpleasant by the hour. Whereas earlier I had to tell Jose when I felt a contraction, now he could tell just by looking at me. I did my best to breathe deep and just stay calm.

Around midnight, my extension expired once again and the nurse started preparing to start me on pitocin. With that announcement, I finally decided to ask for an epidural. The pain had grown enough that I was already considering it, and knowing that they were very likely going to become worse with the pitocin made me pull the trigger. That process took a while and I don’t remember the exact order of events, but sometime between 12:00 and 1:00, Jose had to leave the room for about 15 minutes while the anesthesiologist came in and did my epidural. (He said he didn’t know what to do, so he just wandered downstairs to the vending machines and back.) At some point, the nurses checked me again and found that I was at 6 or 7 cm — and that made them change their mind on the pitocin once again! No drugs for me! This must have been after the epidural was already in, because I don’t remember reconsidering whether to get the epidural or not.

Despite all the stuff going on in that hour, I still remembered the one other big event happening that night — MSL landing on Mars! We had been planning to go over to Jen’s to watch it with her, but obviously Emma had other ideas. We didn’t get NASA TV in the hospital, but sometime around 12:40, I had Jose check his phone for the news. Success — MSL was safely on the surface of Mars! Amazing! With the discomfort of contractions blocked by the epidural, I spent some time surfing Facebook and Twitter on my phone to share in everyone’s excitement. Emma would be born on the same day MSL landed. So cool.

After all that excitement, we finally decided to try to get a little bit of rest. Jose curled up in a chair and we were both able to sleep for about an hour. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing. At 3:00 a.m. the nurses returned for a final check and lo and behold, I was 10 cm. The epidural apparently allowed me to relax enough that I went from 6 to 10 in only 2 hours! Jose jumped out of the chair in a flash, since we were both thinking the same thing — it was baby time! But our expectations were quickly dashed when the nurses had me do a few “practice pushes”…and felt nothing. My lower half was so numb from the epidural that I couldn’t even push properly. The only option was to dial the epidural back — way back — and let me regain some feeling. In the meantime, the nurses said, I would just “labor down.” I had no idea what this meant, but I figured it out quickly enough — it basically meant I had to sit in bed for the next 1.5 hours letting Emma slowly begin to work her way down while the epidural wore off. In other words, I had to sit there feeling more and more painful contractions by the minute.

I don’t remember much about those 90 minutes other than extreme discomfort. I dealt with it as best as I could — closing my eyes, keeping my breathing as slow and even as possible, and just repeating telling myself that it wouldn’t last forever. Jose was sitting right next to me, but we didn’t talk much. Hilariously, I think the thing I told him most often was that it felt like the baby was going to come out of my butt. I didn’t feel like I was having a baby as much as I just felt like I really, really had to poop! And while in retrospect I’ve learned that it’s really common to feel this way because of all the pressure the baby puts on the mom’s rectum on the way out, I totally wasn’t expecting it at the time. It was so bizarre!

Around 4:30, we finally tried pushing again and this time around, let’s just say I could DEFINITELY feel things well enough to push. The epidural had almost entirely worn off and I was quite ready to get Emma out of there, thankyouverymuch. But the doctor wasn’t there yet! Since it was early on a Monday morning, we weren’t waiting for my doctor — we were waiting for an on-call OB who I’d never met before. This didn’t bother me at all, and I was way more concerned with what was taking her so freaking long to get to the hospital! This was by far the most frustrating part of my entire birth experience — after waiting a few hours to be able to push, now I was being told NOT to push until the doctor arrived.

(In retrospect, I do wonder whether I could have gotten all the way through delivery without the epidural, since I never needed pitocin after all, and I ended up having to let the epidural decline to almost nothing before being able to push. But I also recognize that those last 4 cm would have been SO much harder if I’d had to feel them. A drug-free delivery was never my goal anyway — I always just said I’d see what happened when the time arrived, and that’s what I did. In the end, I have no regrets about it.)

The doctor finally arrived around 4:45 and I’m pretty sure I let out a GIANT sigh of relief. The atmosphere in the room immediately changed as people started appearing out of nowhere and all the lights got turned back on. By 5:00 — or maybe a few minutes earlier — I was pushing in earnest. After sitting there for a few hours just suffering through each contraction, it was a great relief to finally feel like the end was near. The silver lining of having to labor down while the epidural dwindled was that by the end of all that, Emma was extremely ready and willing to make her appearance. I only had to push for about 10 minutes…

…and suddenly there was a baby in the room! The pain went away in an instant, and I heard Jose laughing — just laughing. He was giddy with excitement, and I was crying. I heard Emma let out a cry, and Jose cut the umbilical cord with a shaky hand, as he later told me. They wrapped Emma in a blanket and put her on my chest, and I just remember saying “Hi baby! Hi! Your name is Emma! You’re here! I’m your mom!” and kissing the top of her sticky head.

IMG_1961

It was so surreal. After a moment, the nurses whisked her away to the other side of the room to be cleaned up and weighed and measured. You can see in the photo above that she was a little blue, but she pinked up over the next several minutes. Jose went with her and I just remember lying on the bed trying to process everything that had just happened. The doctor and nurses got me cleaned up as well, and before I knew it, Emma was back with me. Slowly the medical staff all left the room until finally it was just Jose, Emma and me. Our new little family of three! We got to spend more than an hour together oohing and aahing over our perfect little girl and feeding her for the first time. Jose got a text from my mom, who had woken up that morning with no new news and was dying to know what was happening — in the rush of activity over the last few hours, we had forgotten to let anyone know that Emma was finally here! We finally sent out a text to our family and friends around 6:45 a.m. and enjoyed the flood of congratulations that came in return.

emma1

Writing this a year later, there are a few moments that stick out in my mind. Sitting in Pei Wei and finally realizing I might be in labor. Walking from the parking lot into the hospital. Finding out that MSL was safe on Mars. Hearing that I was at 10 cm. Ironically, the actual moment of Emma’s birth is a little fuzzy — blame it on the pain, or fatigue, or hormones, or sheer emotion.

But I do remember two sounds. I remember Jose laughing, because it was so unexpected — and yet I could tell that he was overcome with happiness and laughing was the only thing his brain knew how to do.

And I remember saying “your name is Emma” because it seemed so overwhelming — to see this little girl, and realize that she was my baby, and that I could put her name with her face. In those first moments, saying “Emma” out loud sounded so strange. But now I can’t imagine anyone other than our Emma. And she’s perfect.

emma_newborn

Emma’s Birth Story – Part 2

If you haven’t read Part 1, you should probably start there!

After all the stress of the previous few days and our decision to induce the following week, I was determined to have a nice relaxing weekend. On Saturday August 4, Jose and I went to lunch and then an afternoon showing of The Dark Knight Rises — which turned out to be our last movie date for months!

Sunday morning was a little overcast, with typical summer thunderstorms dotting the radar. I woke up around 8:30 and — without going into too much detail — noticed that things were different. Not so different that I thought I was in labor, but different enough that I thought, well, maybe things are close? Maybe she’ll arrive before I get induced?

Jose was working on his instrument rating (for his pilot’s license) and had a lesson scheduled that morning with his instructor, so he headed to the airport while I bummed around the house. At some point that morning, I heard my phone ding and saw a text message from my brother…announcing the birth of my nephew!

I was immediately both super excited and really worried — Lucas wasn’t due until the end of September, so I was definitely not expecting that text for several more weeks! On top of that, I knew that my brother was in Pennsylvania with my parents for my grandmother’s funeral the next day. I texted Brian and called my mom and quickly got the whole story.

Cindy’s water had broken at 3 a.m. My brother David, who had stayed in Charlotte because of work, took Cindy and Danny (my other nephew) to the hospital and Cindy managed to get ahold of Brian in Pennsylvania. Brian immediately bought a plane ticket, and Dad drove him the hour to Baltimore, where he promptly got on a plane, flew back to Charlotte, took a taxi to the hospital…and Lucas was born just before 11:00 a.m.

CRAZY.

Fortunately Lucas was doing really well for being so early, and I sent Brian the following text: “Lucas and Baby R will be only a few days apart!” Or…less than 24 hours apart, as it turned out.

Jose came home from flying and hadn’t actually gone — the scattered thunderstorms were being difficult and he didn’t want to risk flying somewhere and not being able to come back to Pearland because of storms. He apparently told his flight instructor something like: “I know this sounds crazy, but I feel like my baby is going to come today.”

From the minor comments I’d made that morning about things feeling different, Jose suspected Emma was on her way. Basically, Jose had a feeling I was in labor before I did. Yeah. Try to make sense of THAT.

When he got home, we went out to get some lunch at Pei Wei. As we walked in the door, I felt another trickle. This had happened 3 or 4 times since I got up that morning, and it’s what made me think things were different — but I’d heard too many stories about women going to the hospital thinking their water had broken only to be told that they peed themselves. I did not want that to be me! And besides, when your water breaks, doesn’t it all gush out? Like in the movies?

No. As it turns out, it does not always gush out. It can trickle out. And finally, sitting there in Pei Wei waiting for our noodles, it occurred to me that maybe my water HAD broken.

Jose quickly asked the waiter to pack up our order to go, and back in the car we went. I called my doctor on the way home, but it was a Sunday so it was automatically sent to the answering service. If you tell them you’re not sure whether your water has broken, there’s obviously no way for them to assess that over the phone — and so we were told to go to the hospital.

I remember being on the phone with them while Jose stopped for gas. We got home around 2:00 and I grabbed my bag, which I’d mostly packed earlier. I added last minute items like my glasses and phone…and then I sat down at the counter and ate my Pei Wei! I was not about to risk going to the hospital without eating lunch first!!

goingtohospital

Jose took this picture of me in the hall right before we walked out the door for the last time as a family of two. By 3:00, we were knocking on the door to the labor and delivery ward. I walked right in as if it were any other day. Aside from the possible water breaking, I’d had very mild cramps on and off that day — but so minor that if I hadn’t been pregnant, I wouldn’t have thought anything of them.

I thought it would be a quick check to see whether my water had broken or not, but I underestimated the healthcare system. Before anything could happen, I spent a while giving my information and filling out forms! Finally around 4:00 they got to work, and by 4:30 the test result came back.

My water had broken. We were going to have a baby — soon!

To be continued…

Emma’s Birth Story – Part 1

It’s hard to believe that Emma is less than a month away from her first birthday. In honor of that upcoming milestone, I’m finally putting my memories of her birth day in writing! Back in May when I first I started jotting down bits and pieces of what I remember, I re-read my 38 weeks pregnant post. There are several things I wrote then that, in retrospect, are funny to read now:

“I have this idea — based on absolutely NOTHING — that she’s going to arrive early.” My gut feeling turned out to be right — Emma arrived at 38 weeks and 6 days. “Is it possible to have a baby without having contractions? Because that would be nice.” For the record, this is definitely NOT possible. “My doctor decided last week to send me for another ultrasound to get an idea of how much she weighs, so we get to see baby girl tomorrow!”

…and this is actually the perfect starting point.

On Wednesday, August 1, Jose and I arrived at my doctor’s office for the ultrasound she’d scheduled the week before. It was the first time I’d had an ultrasound in their new office, since they’d just moved in June. The tech estimated that Emma weighed around 7 pounds and started pointing out various body parts, but then started concentrating on the area around her bladder. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but then of course my mind starting going crazy — and not in a good way.

She explained that it looked unusual…but that Emma’s bladder was full and could be interfering with her scan. She asked me to go walk around for 20-30 minutes in hopes that Emma would “pee” and allow her a better look.

As you can imagine, hearing that something looked “unusual” was NOT what I expected to hear. And it was definitely not what I WANTED to hear. And so Jose and I did laps around the building while I tried — with only partial success — to keep from bursting into tears.

The second look showed that Emma had indeed emptied her bladder like a champ, but the unusual signature was still there. The details have gotten fuzzy now, 11 months later, but I remember the tech explaining that there are two arteries and one vein that run through the umbilical cord. The two arteries usually run into the baby (at the belly button, obviously) and then wrap around either side of the bladder. One artery looked fine, but the other one looked bunched up or bundled somehow.

My doctor came in to observe, and was similarly stumped. An ultrasound tech and the doctor both confused about what was going on with the baby still in my belly? I was struggling to hold it together as my doctor decided to schedule me for another ultrasound the next day with the other doctor in her practice, who had even more experience reading ultrasounds than she did.

That night, my dad called to tell me that my grandmother had passed away. Although it wasn’t a total surprise since her health had been declining for some time, it was still very sad. There’s no way I could have gotten on an airplane to attend the funeral, which upset me as well.

August 1 was just not a good day.

The next day arrived and we were back at the office again, anxious and a little scared. I went through the rigamarole again — sit down, lean back, shirt up, gel smeared around — and the other doctor started peering at the screen. After a few minutes, he agreed that whatever was going on around Emma’s bladder looked unusual but he wasn’t worried enough to recommend any action other than checking it out after Emma arrived. Finally a bit of good news! I started to relax for about 5 seconds…

…and then he looked at my chart. My doctor had started checking me at each weekly visit to see if/how much I had dilated. By 38 weeks, I was already at 3 centimeters — which I actually had thought was pretty nice since I’d had zero contractions. (And now my earlier comment about giving birth without contractions makes more sense, right?)

Anyway, when the doctor saw that he made a rather casual comment about how we could just schedule an induction for the following week — since I was already in some sort of “favorable” state for induction.

As if I wasn’t already stressed enough…

My own doctor came back in to chat and left things very open-ended. (She also said they even looked in books trying to identify what was going on with Emma’s arteries/bladder and couldn’t come up with anything. Which was AWESOME to hear. And by awesome I mean NOT awesome.) She couldn’t say that the induction was “medically indicated,” and that meant that the earliest an induction could be scheduled was the following Tuesday — you’re not allowed to be voluntarily induced prior to 39 weeks. It was up to me. Did I want to be induced, in order to get Emma here and get her checked out sooner? Or did I want to just let things happen when they happened?

How the heck was I supposed to make that decision??

My first instinct was not to induce. I didn’t have any kind of formal birth plan, but I also really didn’t want to be induced. I hoped to go into labor on my own, whenever the time was right. But Jose’s first instinct was to go for it. We’d get Emma out and could figure out whether there was actually a problem, and we’d get the advantage of being able to schedule when she arrived.

We talked for a while and in the end, I agreed with Jose’s rationale and we decided that I would be induced. It would be scheduled for late the following week and just after I hung up the phone, I said “well, it sure would be nice if I went into labor on my own before then!” Little did I know…

To be continued!

(Although in the interest of not leaving anyone too alarmed: ultimately there was nothing wrong with Emma’s bladder after all — an ultrasound when she was 5 days old showed nothing out of the ordinary.)