Disclaimer: If ya don't wanna hear about my 44 hour labor, this is not the post for you.
Last Monday (the 17th) was my dad's 50th birthday. A lot of people (including me, but not so much me) thought it would be pretty cool if little Miss Clementine was born on his birthday but she had other plans.
At 1130 on Monday night I was laying in bed watching youtube videos of unmedicated births. I know. Gross. I was also texting my love, Susan Chaplin. We both were laying in bed by ourselves feeling slightly blue. Well, truthfully, watching the videos was making me bawl hysterically out of fear. While watching the videos I had a pretty strong contraction....and then five minutes later another one....and five minutes later another one....and five minutes later another one....after about an hour and a half of that pattern I thought, maybe something's going on here? Truthfully, I had had contractions before (although never within 5 minutes of each other) and I had been 3 cm dilated for almost two weeks by that point so my mindset was kind of "I'm never actually going to go into labor so don't freak out."
Well the contractions started to be pretty jarring and they weren't slowing down so I woke my mom up and asked her to come sit with me. I put a movie in (Fool's Gold. It's pretty lame, and pretty awesome, definitely worth renting) and settled into bed with my contraction timer app and kept watch. Mom, of course, immediately started folding my clothes and cleaning my room and keeping busy (I think it may be a coping mechanism for her).
Around 3am it was pretty hard to deny that I was laboring. The contractions had stayed 5 minutes apart but were getting more and more painful, so I called my doula, Laura, and let her know what was going on. Bless her, she took a shower and came over.
I labored on my exercise ball, I labored in bed, I labored and labored. Laura helped me breathe through the contractions and made sure I stayed hydrated. I had my mom call No Longer Bound to let them know that I was in labor so that Thad would know and they let him call me. We cried on the phone together for a little bit and then we got to talk for almost two hours. It was the first time I'd heard his voice in 6 weeks. It was also the first he had been told that he was getting to come home for Christmas so he was extremely emotional. But once we got over the emotional part, he did what he always does: made me laugh. I laughed through contractions for the two hours we were on the phone.
Around 9 in the morning, after taking a walk around the neighborhood, my contractions had slowed and were 15 minutes apart. It was incredibly frustrating, and I was exhausted. We all decided it would be best if I could just take a nap (if possible) and try to get some rest. Laura suggested, if I didn't wake up with contractions closer together, going to see my midwife and getting checked out. So after a two hour nap and getting some food down, mom and I went to see the midwives.
Well wouldn't ya know it? I was 5cm dilated and 80-90% effaced so the midwife sent me straight to the hospital! (Thankfully we brought our bags.) I suppose, for the majority of the universe, being 5cm dilated and almost completely effaced means an impending birth but....not for me. I was barely getting started.
When we got to the hospital, a nurse hooked me up to monitors to check out baby's heartbeat and almost immediately I had a contraction. The nurse didn't like how much Clementine's heart rate slowed so within minutes of being there, I had an oxygen mask on and an IV improperly jammed into my hand. I know this nurse had the best of intentions but it was really intense. Baby's heart rate is supposed to slow during contractions. She just didn't like how much it slowed and all the sudden I'm being treated like something is wrong with me.
The IV that she put in so terribly would become one of the most horrifying parts of the following 30 or so hours. I had to take antibiotics every four hours during my labor and everytime it was administered through this jammed IV line, I would scream. I mean....scream. Because (until delivery) I had never, ever felt such an intense and horrible pain. "On fire" wouldn't begin to cover it. I may or may not be allergic to penicillin which may have added to the agony. Anyway....
My labor remained the same all afternoon and evening. My contractions would oscillate between being frequently infrequent and evenly spaced....just enough to be painful, and just enough to keep me from getting any rest. Again, I labored in bed, I labored on the ball, I even labored in the tub. No change in dilation.
My midwife offered me pain medication to help me sleep, which I refused. I was going to have this baby without pain meds or BUST. I took Ambien instead. The idea was that I'd finally get to sleep (this was Tuesday night, and the last I had slept apart from a nap was Sunday night), and I'd either wake up with strong contractions close together or I'd wake up not in labor at all and I could go home.
Well, that was the plan but nothing about my labor or delivery went according to plan. All the Ambien did was let me sleep between contractions for a few hours. Huge shout out to my mom during all of this. She would get up (she set up camp on the bed in the corner of the room) and comfort me through the contractions when they came. I don't remember much of those hours because of the Ambien but I know she was there (she also managed to read the entire second book of the Hunger Games trilogy during our time in the hospital).
Laura left at this time too because (I thought) she needed sleep (really, she went and helped deliver another baby!) and because nothing was changing with me.
This kind of laboring went on all night and into the next morning, by which time I was exhausted and upset and sad and emotional. Thankfully they had not continued to administer the penicillin because it was pretty obvious I was not about to deliver.
By 7am I was dying to talk to my midwife, Lisa. The midwife that had been on call since I got to the hospital, Kate, was off duty and I just watned to see Lisa and come up with some kind of plan. I was really glad Lisa was the next midwife in. There's just something about her. I had always hoped she would be the one on-call when the time came.
Lisa got there and we chatted for a bit. Lisa has a midwife in training with her, Gina, that I had always seen whenever I saw Lisa. Gina is awesome. Especially later in this story. So anyway, Lisa and Gina and Laura and I talked for a bit and decided it was time to do something. They knew I didn't want to induce artifically (with pitocin) so we decided it was high-time to break my water.
Having your water broken is weird. And gross, if you think about it. And uncomfortable. So around 10am, my water was broken and I was ready to go. Normally once the water is broken that's it, right? Like, here comes baby?
Not when you're me!
I walked the halls and had some awful contractions and this went on for five more hours. Walking. Contracting. Exhausting. Walking. Sitting on the ball. Contractions. Exhaustion.
Several hours later I'm checked again and I'm at 5cm and some change and pretty much fully effaced. This was devastating news. Progress had been made but not the kind of progress that breaking water normally brings. It was at this point that the midwives and my doula and my mom and I start talking induction with pitocin. The midwives and Laura were concerned with my level of exhaustion. I had been laboring at this point for over 35 hours.
I cried. A lot. I felt like a failure. I felt like my body didn't work. I just wanted to talk to Thad. I don't know how, but he ended up calling. I think my mom was texting with the program director and letting him know what was going on so they let him call again. I don't remember much of that conversation, I just remember crying.
So, in through the despised IV the pitocin went. I was on the exercise ball when they induced and there I stayed for awhile whence the dreaded pitocin-induced contractions came.
Lemme just put this out there, make it loud and clear: there is no judgment on my behalf of women who use epidurals or pain medication when they've been induced. None whatsoever. They're the sane ones. You go, girls.
I can only describe the four hours after I was induced as absolute torture. All the mamas that talk about their labor like it was this flowerly moment in their beautiful, incandescent rainbow-filled lives, well....good for you. Not my experience.
At one point, when I was sure I would rather be dead than to continue on, I looked up and saw the nurse about the administer my next dose of penicillin. I said to her the only thing that I could imagine saying which was, "Kill me." I begged her and begged her and begged her not to give me the penicillin. I could not imagine at that point having anything else going on that was going to feel torturous. But, as you probably have figured out, she had to administer the penicillin and I was ready to jump out the window.
Once I hit transition I was begging for drugs. I think my mantra was "I can't do this" and "Please give me drugs." Everyone ignored me. At the time, this was frustrating. I think I may have attempted to attack one of them at one point (all that I can recall of this time is extremely fuzzy, out of body, through a strange lens). Looking back I'm glad they didn't. They knew I was close. They knew I wanted an unmedicated labor. They knew. All I knew was pain. And, as with everything else having to do with myself and labor, I was in transition for a long time. Longer than "usual", I've been told.
Finally, I started pushing that baby on out. I thought that phase of labor took ten minutes but have since discovered I was pushing for nearly an hour.
Is there any way to describe the horror that is delivering a baby? No. So I won't even try.
What I will call out is that my midwife Lisa, seeing that I was just plain done, tuckered out, exhausted, and hysterical, did something that was pure genius. When Clementine was almost out in the world, I was ready to give up. Literally. My energy was gone. My strength was gone. My emotional state was a trainwreck. So Lisa gave me the end of a towel and said "The next time you feel like you have to push, I want you to pull on this as hard as you can, like we're playing tug of war." What this accomplished was giving me a) something else to focus on and b) helped me to bear down and utilize all the completely exhausted muscles I needed to use.
I remember when her head came out, everyone in the room was all emotional and excited and I was just angry. I thought for sure someone would just pull her out but noooooo, I had to keep pushing. And someone told me to look down so I could see my baby and I just thought, listen, whoever you are, get her out of me already! I refused to look, I clearly still had work to do and in my head there was no time for lollygagging. Everyone kept saying really stupid things like "She's almost here!" and all I could think was you're freaking kidding me. Of course, I needed to be told things like that but in the moment I felt like everyone was lying to me.
Finally, at 730pm, they handed me this slimy, adorable, precious miracle. She barely cried, and she just curled into me, with her eyes wide open and forever crushed my soul. It's true what everyone has been telling me, "Just wait til you see your baby for the first time" and since ya'll have probably heard that as many times as I have I won't continue to expound. You know what I'm sayin.
She and I spent lots of hours that evening just staring at each other.
I believe that if I hadn't had the team I had--my doula, Laura, and my midwives, Lisa and Gina, my birth experience could have been absolutely terrible. Those three ladies are miracle workers, through and through.
The hospital insisted I stay for 24 hours which was incredibly obnoxious. They wanted me to stay for 48 but my midwife got me out of that. 48 hours in the hospital after I'd already been there for two days? No thanks. And anyway 48 hours from when I delivered Thad was in Phoenix and on his way to our house!!
My dad picked him up from the airport Friday night. Clementine and I were way too tuckered out still for the outside world. I heard him come rushing into the house and then I heard someone washing their hands in the sink. Sweet boy. At first when he held her he couldn't stop laughing because she was rolling her eyes back in her head, trying not to fall asleep. A few minutes later he just fell apart in tears looking at her.
I was in heaven all weekend. Thad pulled some major dad-duty. I didn't change a single diaper and with very few exceptions, he spent every minute she was awake during the night with her so I could sleep. He would wake me up when she needed to eat and then take her in another room or just rock her all night. He couldn't get enough of her. I have never seen someone so cheerfully change a diaper.
What REALLY blew me away was how intuitive he was with her. He was the one who configured her little sleeper just right. She doesn't like to sleep in it without the blankets being just so (yes, she's a little princess-y and we love it) and he was the one who figured that out. He became an excellent swaddler. He found ways to change her clothes that didn't upset her. He was just so sweet and gentle and precious with her, and it just came to him. It was such a sight to see. Did I mention he couldn't put her down? Not even to play with his new iPad mini?
It was really nice having family in town, too. Between my mom and my aunt, Thad and I occasionally got an hour or two to ourselves, which was mostly spent snuggling or catching some sleep.
Oh and yea....dad got us iPad mini's. I thought they were cool before I owned one but now I'm slightly obsessed. They're so much lighter and easier to carry. I can throw it in my diaper bag and go, which is obviously an extremely appealing little factoid for me. Dad always gives the best gifts!
Huge shout out to my brother this year too. His gift was extremely thoughtful. He got me a sampler from Teavana that I can't wait to rip into. I was going to ask for something from there but let's face it, they're expensive and overwhelming but that brother of mine traversed the unknown for me anyway. Thanks, bro.
My sister in law also got me a book that I've been mesmerized by....it's all about baby food! Frankly I can't wait til she's old enough for me to start making food for her. Breastfeeding is exhausting, but Clemenbaby is starting to get fat on her legs so I guess something is going right....
Taking Thad to the airport on Wednesday morning was beyond difficult. All I wanted to say was "don't go" but I had the feeling that that would just make things really hard on him so we mostly sat in silence. We sat in the chairs outside security for awhile and he just let me cry all over him. When he left, the old man sitting next to me said "Saying goodbye is always hard. Is he in the military?" which gave me some comic relief. All I managed to do besides simultaneously laugh and cry was shake my head no and say "rehab." Thankfully he just nodded and let me be.
The rest of that day was really hard. I hadn't been alone to feed, change, feed, re-clothe after blowups, feed, and change until then and all the emotion on top of that was a bit much. Somehow it gets both easier and harder every day.
That being said, keep us in your prayers. I'm still figuring out this mom-thing and Thad is about to go into a phase of the program that is the most difficult, and there is no contact allowed--meaning he won't be allowed to send or receive letters for the duration of it, which is our only form of communication and I'm tearing up at the thought of it.
Also, I want to apologize for all the well-wishers in my inbox on my phone and email and facebook that I haven't gotten back to. It's not that I didn't get your sweet messages, it's that I'm exhausted and have my hands full. Just please know I'm so thankful for all the encouragement and love sent our way and I'm mentally thanking you all the time....with my hands full of baby, baby poop, and diapers.
Anyway, praise God for the past two weeks of our lives. We now have a healthy, GORGEOUS baby and we got to spend Christmas together. God is good.