Labor is hard. Giving birth hurts a lot. The first week home with a new baby is harder than giving birth.
I started having mild contractions on Thursday morning (June 18th). They were totally tolerable - Tim and I went to breakfast at Zazie. As the day wore on the contractions were getting stronger and closer together but not so bad that I couldn't keep doing things. This is where they tell you to resist the urge to be productive and just take a nap instead. I wish I had taken that advice. I started keeping track of them around 1:30 pm. When Tim got home from work we went for a walk because that is supposed to help your cervix dilate, which can take a long time with your first baby. It was comical - I had to stop every few minutes and sit on someone's front steps while I had a contraction. We tried to go to bed but I couldn't sleep. The birthing ball was my friend, walking and moving around was great, and I took 2 showers before we left for the hospital. At around 3:30am I woke Tim up to come help me. I labored at home until 6:30am and then we went to the hospital.
When we arrived I was 100% effaced and 8cm dilated (the walk apparently worked). I was rushed into a L&D suite and everyone anticipated that we would meet our little Peeper by noon. I settled in to our room with a fabulous view, made friends with my nurse and midwife, and continued to labor. Everything was going along just fine until the contractions started getting farther apart and less intense. What's worse is that after a few hours of this I hadn't made any progress when it came to getting my girl toward the exit. They put me on Pitocin. Yeah, I didn't want that but what was I going to do - keep the baby in there forever? As expected, the contractions went back to the former intensity and closeness but still no progress.
I asked for someone to come and check me again because I felt like I wanted to push now or very soon. Turns out my water hadn't completely broken - they broke my water at 1:30pm on Friday. Let me tell you that when that fluid came pouring out it was like a tsunami!! With the next contraction I could feel the baby descend into the birth canal - freaked me out! Transitional labor sucks ass. I spent almost the next 4 hours pushing. And the public pooping was awful but you know how I feel about public pooping. People will try to tell you that you won't notice it. Ummm....you will notice it. We had a lot of trouble going from about 0 to 3+ station - it took forever because she was turned kind of to the side and heading for a face-up delivery. I ended up doing some squatting etc to try to encourage and help her spin back to being face-down.
I was so freaking tired by this point I was having trouble pushing through the whole contraction. I was trying to rest between contractions so my eyes were closed then and during pushing I was squeezing everything so hard that my eyes were shut then too! I didn't notice Tim with a camera. But I did notice him getting really stressed - it takes a lot to make him get frantic. The baby was having late heart rate decelerations and now there was meconium in the amniotic fluid - we were headed for a c-section. I actually was instructed to NOT push during every other contraction. That was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do was not push.
At some point I realized that the room was full of people including the attending, fellow, and resident all crowded between my knees. Pediatrics was hovering in the background in case the baby had aspirated meconium. She crowned finally!! She was there with the maximum circumference of her head lingering at the final exit. Ring of fire is an excellent description. I tried to wait it out until the next contraction and then do the slow, controlled push so I wouldn't tear. Pfft!! Whatever, I couldn't take it anymore so I pushed without the contraction (I did give the fellow warning to get ready) and then she was born!! I'll give it to you straight: it feels pretty weird to have a baby come out of there.
She was born 9 pounds even and 20.5 inches long at 4:54 pm on June 19th. She was whisked off by pediatrics for some length of time I can't even speculate about. It seems like only a couple of minutes but I might have fallen asleep. She was screaming from the very start and her apgars were a 9 so once pediatrics declared her healthy I got to hold my babe. That moment is one that so many say they will remember forever and it's full of emotion etc...I was just so tired and I just couldn't believe she was ours. In an instant I became a mom, Tim became a dad, and this little person was separate from us both after 40 weeks of being tucked inside me. All I could do was stare at her and kiss her forehead. Just surreal. It took about 4-5 days before I didn't feel like I was in the room with someone else's baby and I was just the sitter.
I had a second degree perineal tear that was pretty jagged and weird so it took the fellow some time to suture me up. She was apologizing for taking so long. I said, "Take your time. My vagina is very important to me!" We were her last baby of her fellowship as she was graduating and moving on to private practice the next day! Taking care of that has been delightful...it's not the end of the world but you know, it's a tender area. Well, we were headed off to the recovery room about 2 hours after delivery. The nurse helped me up to go to the bathroom - I was not prepared to be so debilitated and need so much help. I did that and came back and was waiting for her and Tim to gather all our stuff and woosh - I was standing there and blood poured out. I lost about a liter in all - dropped my hematocrit 10% and into transfusion range. I got some more drugs and that was that. The real effect of the blood loss was on my milk supply but we wouldn't know that until days later.
A word about pain: there seems to be some kind of unspoken competition amongst women about epidural or not. The one advantage I can see to it is that I could have slept and not been so damn tired when it came time to push. There were so many people who expected me to "cave in" - I hate that sentiment. Someone after commented "did you do it just to prove that you could?" Well, yeah I kind of did. Maybe my next labor will be different -there's no telling what is going to happen. I did ask for some drugs shortly after I got to the hospital. Nitrous is used pretty routinely in Europe and they are trying it out at UCSF. I viewed pain relief as a tiered system: I would start with nitrous and if that sucked then I would resort to fentanyl and if that didn't do it I would consider an epidural. Since I was so dilated when I arrived I was told that there probably wasn't time for an epidural so I made the mental switch right there - the epidural was no longer an option so I best make do with what was available. I did use the nitrous and later 3 micro doses of fentanyl. Thank God for opiates.
We finally named the babe - Ada Caroline. Funny, it was driving everyone crazy that we didn't have a name so we drug it out a little farther than we had to. Just savoring the secret.
You know that I've been facinated by the whole question of what turns a woman into a mother. Here is the thing - I am able to talk about other stuff still!! But I am head-over-heels for my kid. I think that pregnancy is where it starts - you can't deny that it's happening even from the very start. Then your body changes and you have a physical reminder all day every day. By the way, my post-partum body is a lot less scary than I thought it would be. For the ladies about to give birth I recommend getting a belly bandit or something like it. Now that she is here it is all-consuming...and delightfully so. I love to just sit and watch her moving around and looking at things. When she cries I want to make it stop but not because it bothers me but because I want her to feel comfortable and happy. I adore her - every hair, every sweet breath, every little noise, all of her. I want to snuggle her all the time and be with her always! I love watching Tim with her too - it is a whole new level of closeness that I couldn't have anticipated. He adores her and is already a great father. It just makes me love him even more deeply.