[Disclaimer: If you're a dude, one of my brothers, or generally uninterested in the minute details of a woman's real, live, all-natural birth, then you may want to skip this one! All you need to know is posted at the end of this story (which means you'll have to skim through it and see totally safe pictures anyway). /End disclaimer.]
So, where did we leave off last? Oh yes, that's right...we were beginning the drive down to TGH.
Since it was midday, traffic was slim to nil and we cruised down the interstate and took the Crosstown to get on over to the hospital. Dealing with contractions in the car is never fun, but it's part of the ballgame so I just rolled with it as much as I could. As soon as we got to the hospital and began the valet parking experience, I started contracting again. I'm sure the valet men see it all the time: women trying to exit their cars only to find themselves stalled in an unusual standing position, working through a contraction. Yes, that was me.
The next little bit was sort of a blur to me, as I just wanted to get all the business of triage behind me and focus on the rest of my labor, but I was taken by wheelchair to triage, with Greg and Stephanie, our doula, aside us, where we began the triage process. A nurse came in and checked me and said I was between 4-5 cm and almost completely effaced (was it 75%?). On my chart she put a 5 and they admitted me. We were able to get a room with a birth tub, which also happened to be overlooking the bay and as far as labor and delivery rooms go, it was pretty nice! Very scenic. Not that I spent much time looking over the waters and considering the deep abyss that lies below, though.
Once we were admitted in the room, the doctor for the day stopped by and shared his greetings and went over the plan: I would labor for a few hours and then he would come check me again and see how things were progressing. And if they weren't progressing, we'd talk about what to do next. That little addition at the end was slightly worrisome as I didn't want to consider that there could possibly be any other options than this baby exiting my body the way nature intends but I didn't really let my mind go there. I just said okay and worked through more contractions. For some reason unbeknownst to me, while we were in our room, a couple of nurses had to go through this laundry list of questions that were really irksome to me to have to answer. Why these questions, why now?? Fortunately, Greg answered most of them and I just tried to get as comfy as I could while I waited for them to leave.
While they were wrapping up, my doula rubbed some labor oil and another aromatherapy blend on my belly (which she also had done before we left the house, and did a couple more times during labor) asked if I was ready to get into the birth tub. That sounded really good right about then, so I said yes and Greg, Stephanie and I made our way into the bathroom (sounds funny in retrospect) and with a little assistance I got into the tub.
Ahhhh....immediate relaxation. Well, as much as one can relax in labor. Something about laboring in water is quite soothing and chillaxing, and by that point (the rush of the morning, getting to the hospital, being triaged, being asked silly questions), I was ready for things to calm down a bit. Sometimes getting in the tub stalls labor for some women; I learned that at the birth center, but I was okay with a little stalling if I meant I could have some time to breathe and get a grip on things again.
I spent a good while in the tub--at least an hour--working and breathing through contractions, and telling myself to let the baby down and out when I was working through a tough one. I tried to visualize each contraction doing something purposeful--moving the baby down--so that I wouldn't fight it. My doula played some music on her phone (New Age Essentials on Pandora if you're looking for some good birthin' music!) and turned off the lights so that it was very peaceful. She and Greg just kind of observed while this happened and were there to provide support or chat with if I felt like it. But I can tell you from 2 birth experiences now, I rarely feel like chatting during labor!
There came a point when I felt it was time to get out, so I got out of the tub and sat on the toilet -- almost the exact same sequence I had in Mia's labor -- for a while to see how things felt out of the water. And it was more intense. I sat there for a few minutes until I heard that the doctor would be coming back in soon to check on me. I couldn't believe it had already been a few hours, but it was and I gradually made my way out of the bathroom and to the bed. I must pause here and say my nurse was amazing. She stayed totally out of the way, and when she needed to check the baby on the monitor every so often, she wheeled the machine as close to the bathroom door as possible and strung out the cord as much as it would stretch so she could place it on my abdomen without my having to move hardly an inch! She was very accommodating. I also only had a heplock on my arm so that I could move around without being attached to a pole--that was all by request, too.
I was waiting for the doctor to come in and my contractions felt less and less tolerable. I was getting antsy and kind of annoyed he wasn't there yet. I thought he was coming; I got out of the bathroom and out of my zone to be checked and here I am uncomfortable just waiting on this bed!! Where's he at?
Finally he arrived, checked me, and said I was at 8cm. Eight centimeters? Only eight? To be honest I was a little disappointed. For all that time I had spent laboring and knowing my labor with Mia lasted about 12 hours total, I was fully expecting this show to almost be done. He said my bag of waters was still intact and at this point there were 2 options: break my bag of waters and we'd probably see a faster arrival of the baby, or wait it out and let my body do it on its own, which would probably take longer.
I asked him if we could briefly discuss it, so I spoke with Greg and my doula and I told them, "I'm ready for this to be over; maybe we should just break it?" and my doula agreed that at this point, it wasn't as risky an intervention, as normally I would not necessarily accept an artificial rupture of the membranes (to learn more, read here). In my case, since we were so close to the end, it can help speed dilation. We called him back in and said we would break it, so he scrubbed up and got the items he needed to do that and it broke. Being graphic here--it felt like a really really warm gush of water flowing out of me, almost a relief, followed by a very strong, intense and mighty contraction. That contraction about sent me over the edge and I was ready to jump out of my own body and off that delivery table. I felt that little baby's body come down strong and I felt an urge. My nurse checked me after the next contraction and said I was fully dilated and complete and she called the doctor back in. He had originally come in the room just after 4:30, broken my bag of waters some minutes after that, and was supposed to be off-shift at 5pm, but when he heard that I was complete and ready to push he came back in, got his delivery scrubs on, moved the bed a bit, changed the lighting, and called the newborn baby nurse. This is when things got REAL and I was still in shock that this was really happening.
I remember Greg and Stephanie looking at me excitedly. "This is it! We're about to push this baby out and meet him!" I'm sure that's what their faces meant. In my head though, I was still thinking, How are we gonna do this? Do I remember how to do this? What if I have one of those agonizingly long pushing phases that lasts hours upon hours? Dare I say I watched a few too many birth shows this time around and despite pushing Mia out in probably 30 minutes, I just did not know if I would be so lucky this time. The nurse and my doula helped me get my legs into position, and Greg was back by my head encouraging me through the process.
I will say that at the first pushing contraction, I pushed like a newbie. I'm embarrassed to say I screamed a bit and my nurse had to lovingly get in my face and tell me not to scream and that I needed to use my legs more for leverage and focus on where I was putting my energy in pushing so that it was most effective.
During the next contraction or two I started to figure it out and pushed as much as I could using all the coaching I was getting. I was following my own body's cues as well as the feedback from the whole delivery team. Let me just tell you it is hard to push a baby out! Our bodies were designed to do this, I truly believe, but getting the baby through that birth canal ain't necessarily always an easy business. Once I started focusing on the task at hand, the process really worked itself out. I'm still amazed at how short a time it took for the baby to work his way down and out. With lots of excitement and positive feedback from the nurse, our doula, and Greg, after another contraction he was crowning, and by the next contraction he slithered his way out and was HERE! All in all, it probably only took 10-15 minutes with probably 4 pushing contractions for Gabe to be born. I was
They immediately placed the baby (who had to be named) on my abdomen with a towel and we gently scrubbed him off a little while he lay there. He was very calm and content as much as I can remember, and all I felt after he was born was this feeling of sheer relief and shock--much as I did with Mia--that this labor was OVER! I was so thankful and Greg said I kept on saying, "Thank goodness, thank goodness, thank goodness!" as soon as he was delivered. It's incredible how you go from one extreme while you're pushing (please let us be done with this business soon!) to incredible joy and pride as soon as the baby arrives.
|first moments with mommy|
|happily posing with our newest addition|
If you're a male reading this and get queasy easily then skip this paragraph...the placenta very quickly was delivered after that, and was a healthy red color, much different than Mia's. What a relief to see it in such better condition and not to have to stand up and squat to deliver it like I did with Mia. Not fun!
The medical team really respected our wishes that the baby and I be skin-to-skin for the first hour, and let us bond and just chill while he and I were both checked out post-delivery. I finally got a good look at him after the doctor left and realized he looked like a Gabe to me, which is the name we were both leaning towards the entire pregnancy. Greg agreed and so we chose the name Gabriel Charles. Gabriel is a Hebrew name, which means "God is my strength," and is the angel in the bible who told Mary she would be Jesus' earthly mother. Charles is Greg's middle name and his maternal grandfather's name. So, like Mia, Gabe has a family name, a biblical name, and his initials match Greg's like Mia's match mine!
|hat crocheted by our doula|
|just after his newborn assessment|
|first family of 4 photo|
She quickly got accustomed to him, even though in this picture she clearly seems more interested in the Burt's Bees chapstick than she is of her little brother. Right away she was trying to share items with him and she wanted to see his hands and his feet. It didn't take her long at all to assume the big sister role.
To "evaluate" the hospital birth as compared to the birth center birth, Greg and I were really pleased. Our entire medical staff was very accommodating and respectful of our wishes. Our nurse was jazzed we were going all-natural. There were never any tense heated moments or disagreements about our intentions or our wishes. Everything was respected, even letting the cord pulse a little bit longer than may be usual before it was clamped and cut. I later found out Greg accidentally left the birth plan in the car (oops!!) so he had whispered all our requests and preferences to the nurse during that "annoying" question and answer period when we first taken to the delivery room.
I can safely say as much as we were able, we almost had a birth-center like birth at the hospital. There are a few things that are impossible to compare, like the clinical nature of the hospital to the home-like nature of the birth center, or working with a midwife versus a doctor, but as far my actual labor & delivery experiences goes, I felt respected, heard and validated. Which makes it sound like it's all about me, but I know from enough research, women can have feelings that linger for years regarding the birth experience they didn't get. All of that was important to me, and for my feelings about my baby, and I'm very thankful our prayers were answered.
So really, if you made it this far, or if you're just skimming the story, all you really need to know is, thanks to God, Gabriel was delivered safe and sound. Sigh.Of.Relief!