Thursday, July 24, 2008

Elizabeth's Birth Story

I went to the doctor on Tuesday 7/15 for my regular checkup and had made no progress since my previous appointment, so I felt fairly confident that I wasn't going into labor anytime in the foreseeable future. (And I made plans accordingly. We were going to go see The Dark Knight on Saturday, and I had a whole list of little errands and to-dos around the house before my mom was going to come on the 21st.)

I woke up on Wednesday 7/16 and felt a little bit funny. While LB was in the shower, I was sitting in bed reading, had a couple of sharp-ish contractions, felt a trickle of fluid, and thought Great, I've now developed pregnancy incontinence as I ran to the bathroom. There wasn't a big gush, so I decided to just go about my business and have breakfast, which turned out to be a very good idea.

After LB and I finished breakfast, he was about to grab his lunch bag and head out the door, and I had another trickle of fluid. He reminded me that breaking one's water didn't have to involve a gush and that I needed to go ahead and call the doctor. I called, told the on-call doctor that I thought my water might have broken, although I wasn't having contractions and I wasn't sure, and she said to go ahead and come into the office and they'd check.

We made it all the way to the doctor's office and back to the exam room before the gush happened. The doctor said, "I don't think we need to do the pH swab test -- you need to go to labor and delivery now." En route to L&D, we called both sets of parents. Mine were in Denver, about to head out to Boise for a weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and his family, so they did a quick change of plans and got tickets for Atlanta. LB's mother was home, but his dad was away on a business trip and couldn't make it back home in time.

In L&D, they did 20 minutes of fetal and contraction monitoring, and they noticed the same thing I had -- mainly, I wasn't having strong or regular contractions. The nurses unhooked the monitors and sent me out to walk the halls for 40 minutes, then come back for 20 minutes of monitoring. LB went walking with me, then went downstairs to get some lunch because it looked like it was going to be a long day at this point. I sat on the birth ball to see if that position could get things started.

When he came back, the doctor had come in for a consultation, and she was concerned that labor wasn't progressing. Once the water breaks, there is an increased risk of infection, and they would really prefer to have the baby delivered within 18 hours of the water breaking. By this time, I was about 6 hours into that 18. She suggested augmenting labor with a Pitocin drip, and it seemed like a better option to me to have a possibly more painful labor than to have to possibly send our baby to the NICU for monitoring and lab work later.

Once they started the Pitocin drip, I had to be on continuous monitoring, so I couldn't get up and walk around. The nurses knew that I was trying for an unmedicated birth, and they were fantastic cheerleaders, suggesting different positions and offering lots of encouragement. LB was a great coach and stayed very calm and relaxed. After 2 hours on the Pitocin, I'd only progressed from 3 to 4 cm dilated, which was slightly discouraging. The nurses told me that things could continue to progress this slowly, or I could be one of those people who "breaks all the rules" and goes very fast.

Upon due consideration, I'll take slow next time, because I went from 4 to 6 cm in 20 minutes flat. LB tells me I spent those 20 minutes gripping an emesis basin like a lifeline and that I told him to leave me alone. (I told him that if that's the worst thing I said in labor, we were in good shape.) At that point, I got a shot of something for the nausea and something to take the edge off the contractions, since they had turned the Pitocin drip up to 10. I was moving around too much for the fetal monitors to get a good pickup, so they had to insert an internal monitor, and that was fairly uncomfortable.

I labored in the rocking chair for a while, and this is the point where things get really fuzzy for me. I remember being in the chair and asking when I could have another shot to take the edge off, and the nurse telling me it would be another hour. At that point, I was starting to get exhausted by the contractions coming right on top of each other, and I knew I couldn't do it for another hour and still have anything left to push, so I opted for the epidural.

About all I remember from that is telling the anesthesiologist that I felt a twinge in my left hipbone and that his cell phone rang twice while he was putting the line in. Once the epidural was in, the nurses checked me, and they said, "Well, you did the hard part on your own; you're fully dilated already." Since the baby's head was still pretty high, though, they decided to let me "labor down" for an hour or so to get her head to come farther down. They turned the Pitocin down and let me rest for a bit.

By this point, my parents and LB's mom had arrived, and since I was resting pretty comfortably then, they all came into the room and sat and chatted about very little for a while. LB was laughing at my need to be a "good hostess" even in the middle of labor. (I say you can't take the South out of the girl.) The doctor came in to do an exam, so everybody stepped out. After the exam, she said, "Let's do a practice push," and LB stepped back in to discover that it was time to go. He sent a quick text to my dad that he wasn't coming back out!

I started pushing around 6:45, and in what seemed like five minutes but was actually 45, Elizabeth came into the world at 7:31 p.m. (20 inches long, 7 pounds 5.6 ounces. So much for the "you're having a big baby" theory.) LB told me the secret he'd kept for 18 weeks and five days -- "It's a girl!" While they were cleaning her up and getting me situated, LB ran out to share the news with the new grandparents. He couldn't decide initially whether to send a text or go out to the waiting room, because he didn't want to leave his family, but I asked him, "Don't you want to see their faces?" That decided him, and he popped out to share the news with them. (The grandparents went and hit up the gift shop immediately for pink things.)

We had time to bond and spend some quiet minutes together as a family once they got everything done, and they were some of the sweetest moments of my life. It felt so amazing to go from a family of two to a family of three!

The grandparents came in with lots of pink things -- a little bear lovey, roses, two beautiful dresses, chocolate chip cookies with a pink bow -- and then we moved on to the postpartum room. While we'd been in labor and delivery, the grandparents had toured the Waters Pavilion at Piedmont, and they decided that we needed to stay there and have the princess treatment. I'd highly recommend it to anybody. It's all two-room suites with a pull-out couch and a full bathroom in the second room, and they serve tea every afternoon.

My left leg was still pretty numb from the epidural, so it took a little while for me to get settled, but I finally got to eat something around 10 p.m. or so (tomato soup and mint chip gelato). LB and my dad ran back to the house to walk the dog and pick up stuff for LB to spend the night, and my mom and I called my two sisters to talk to them. LB came back, my parents left, and we spent the next while just looking at the amazing blessing that had just come into our lives.

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