I miss blogging. I wasn’t sure that I would. For this reason, I fully intend to start up blogging again. I am not yet sure whether it will be on this particular site. I kind of like the idea of leaving this blog as a record of last year. At some point last year, however, I did promise a post on Josh’s birth story. Well, it was Josh’s first birthday yesterday and I thought it was about time I wrote down the birth story as some of the details were beginning to grow hazy along the corners of my mind. So here it is in its full, uncut glory, if anyone cares to read it.
It is 5:46 a.m., September 11, 2010. At this same time last year, which was a Friday morning, I was waking up to go to the bathroom. As I walked, a bit of liquid mixed with diluted blood dribbled down my leg. I actually panicked. Although I had previously delivered two children vaginally, I had never had anything like this happen. My first child’s labor began with my water most conclusively breaking in the middle of the night, 11 days before she was due. My second labor began, again in the middle of the night, with a series of two or three undeniably strong contractions. In both cases, I didn’t experience a bloody show. In retrospect, I now realize that this is what I was encountering on this same morning last year. My third pregnancy, however, had been wrought with so much anxiety and worry, as well as about three instances of bleeding and spotting, that this new sign of blood caused me to fear something was wrong. Additionally, the previous evening, I realized that a blazing vaginal yeast infection had set in quite suddenly, and I had phoned the on-call midwife to try to figure out what to do. She instructed me to just have it checked out the next day at my then weekly check-up, which was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Anyway, if I had only recognized the bloody show for what it was, I would have just stayed at home until my 10:00 appointment. Because I was so worried (coupled with the fact that I had delivered my second child about two hours after the first contraction), I told my husband Chris that we needed to start out for the hospital, which was across town in a fairly large metropolitan community. I was worried that if we delayed, we would get stuck in the morning rush hour.
Before leaving for the hospital, I called labor and delivery to let them know I was on my way. I also emailed my daughter, who was living in Japan at the time as an exchange student. I didn’t want her to worry if she didn’t get an email from me for a few days. She knew my September 14th due date was fast approaching and she had hoped that I would have the baby on a weekend, as she had more availability to talk to me via Skype on the weekends. I also woke up my 14-year old son, who was just completing his first week of high school and told him that we were heading to the hospital. He seemed just a little confused. After waiting so long, I don’t think he really believed this baby was actually going to come. We left my son to get ready for school and to get on his bus alone. Once he returned from school, he was again alone until Chris returned to sleep at about 11:00 p.m.
Our suitcase was already packed and in the car. We somehow forgot to pack music, although we both had our individual iPods. My husband drove. I had some pretty fierce contractions along the way and I was worried that perhaps I’d deliver in the car. I didn’t really take time for breakfast at home, so I ate a granola bar along the way. It was a pretty nice day in early September, so we didn’t encounter any real traffic problems. We reached the hospital in about twenty-five minutes. If traffic had been bad, the drive could have taken us up to ninety minutes. During the last five or so minutes of the journey, it seemed I was contracting every three or four minutes. I urged my husband to hurry. It was a stressful drive. We parked in the parking ramp of the hospital. I don’t think we brought in my suitcase, knowing they planned to just evaluate me to determine whether to admit me.
We walked in from the parking garage and waited about five minutes for an open elevator. I remember that Chris was extremely disgusted when another party jumped in an elevator ahead of us. By the time we reached labor and delivery, at about 7:30 a.m., I was eager to get my cervix checked. I really thought I might be 5-6 centimeters. I was put in the temporary evaluation room and it seemed like we waited at least one-half hour to see the on-call midwife. During that time, the nurse put the standard monitors on me. I started up my Hypnobabies meditations on the iPod and was feeling pretty relaxed. I remember that Chris was very nervous perhaps because this was his first baby (first two kids were with my ex-husband). I encouraged him to go call his best friend in Texas, which he did. As I had hoped, it helped calm him down some. When the midwife on call arrived, it turned out that she was the same one that I had talked to the night before, now at the end of her shift. She was a no-nonsense African American woman named Vida. She brought a soothing presence to the room. I remember her (or was it the nurse) complementing me on my smooth belly (no stretch marks). When she checked my cervix, she announced that I was three centimeters dilated. I was disappointed. She also wasn’t concerned about my slight bleeding or yeast infection. She told me to get up and walk the halls for an hour and then they’d evaluate me to see if I had progressed.
Already upon reaching the labor and delivery floor, it seemed like my contractions slowed, as so often is the case when people go to the hospital. I walked around as directed for an hour. I even did lunges up and down the halls and performed series of standing squats, as if I had been exercising regularly throughout my pregnancy (of course, I hadn’t been). I must have been running on pure adrenaline. By the time the midwife came back to check on me, Vida had left and Amy Knox, the midwife that I had seen most often throughout my pregnancy, was on call. I was very excited to see Amy, as I had been so hopeful she’d be the midwife to deliver my son.
Amy checked my cervix at about 9:30 a.m. I was aware that it was almost time for my regularly scheduled appointment and I felt like I should have just kept that appointment time. This was especially true after I learned that I was only slightly up from three centimeters—dilated somewhere between three and four centimeters. Because of my history of pre-term contractions, they decided to discharge me. I am not sure that this was the best decision on their part, but Chris and I were both really hungry so we were glad to be leaving. I had the midwife write me a prescription for Diflucan before we left so that I could try to knock out my yeast infection before the baby was born. I didn’t want him to end up with thrush, like my older son developed right after he was born. We stopped by the hospital’s pharmacy to get the prescription filled. While we were waiting, I started to have increasingly strong contractions again. I remember that I found a bench and hovered over it with each contraction. When we reached the car, I took the Diflucan with some water. Chris and I decided to go to the Good Earth Restaurant in the Galleria for brunch (it was now about 10:30 a.m.), which was only about ten minutes or less from the hospital. We both ordered a hearty egg-based breakfast. While we sat in the booth, my contractions became very regular again and very strong. With each contraction, I had to lie down on my side in the booth. I certainly couldn’t talk through the contractions. We weren’t really timing the contractions, but it seemed like they were coming at least every five minutes. Still, we both managed to finish our meals. Even at that time, it seems we didn’t really think the baby might still be coming that day.
When we were back out in the car, we debated the merits of going home. It was about 11:45 a.m. at that time. Ultimately, we decided it was unwise to get too far from the hospital so we went back to a furniture store (Gabberts) in the Galleria and decided to shop for a kitchen table for our new house. We actually found a table we liked. While shopping, however, my contractions were so strong that I would stop at each one and lean over, grabbing whatever piece of furniture was nearby, and breathe my way through the contraction. I remember actually being on my knees at one point during a contraction, back in the lighting department, looking at chandeliers for my daughter’s room. Given my deteriorating state, we decided to come back later to purchase the table and set out back for the car. Before I got into the car, I had Chris take some pictures of my pregnant belly. I had the feeling that this would be one of my last opportunities for pregnant belly shots. It was about 12:30 p.m. at this time.
Once in the car, I called the hospital. I told them that I was having real strong contractions about every four to five minutes. They still encouraged me to hold off coming in. I don’t think they believed me. They said something about “with your history of false labor.” I was depressed. At this point in time, I began to feel like a displaced animal, looking for a burrow. I could tell my body was just yearning for a place to bed down and give birth. I was despondent. I asked Chris to get me a room at the five-star hotel that was next door to the Galleria. I really felt I needed a place to go. It is a good thing he didn’t agree to this for I surely would have delivered my baby in the hotel room. Once there, I know I would have refused to leave. For some reason, however, we got back in the car and began to drive towards the hospital. I believe we had some thoughts about going to a used bookstore that Chris had visited in the past. On the way, I had to go to the bathroom and so we stopped off at a Dairy Queen. I remember that it took us about five minutes to walk from the parking lot to the Dairy Queen. I was a spectacle for all to see. Stopping in the parking lot, holding on to Chris to get through my contractions. I was miserable. After I went to the bathroom, Chris said, “I don’t care what they say, I am taking you back to the hospital.” I didn’t disagree. I knew I needed to go some place, other than the bathroom at the Dairy Queen. In fact, at this point, I was wishing aloud that I had just given birth at home so that I wouldn’t be in this situation. Chris felt bad because he knew that this was the route I had wanted to take.
By the time we got back up to the labor and delivery floor, it was about 1:30 p.m. Immediately upon reaching the check-in counter, I had a “red alert” contraction that had me down on my knees in the small reception area of labor and delivery. The nurse at the desk took one look at me and whisked us into a small evaluation room to the side of the reception desk. Instead of lying down, as I wanted to do, I got on all fours on the small exam table and tried to do pelvic tilts in between contractions. I was there probably only about five minutes when midwife Amy came to check my cervix. I was dilated six to seven centimeters and it was finally clear to all that I really was in labor. I am not sure if she felt bad about sending me away earlier. It may be, however, that leaving the hospital was what got my labor back on track and moving along, which was a far better solution than a pitocin drip. Amy wasted no time in getting me to a birthing room with an assigned nurse, who stayed by my side until Josh’s birth. She was a great nurse and because of that, I’m glad I didn’t bring in a doula, who probably would have stood in the way of this fantastic nurse who undoubtedly had far more experience than any doula. (I feel really bad that I no longer remember her name).
When we got to our birthing room, my contractions were extremely painful. I cannot even imagine how I would have listened to Hypnobabies at that time. The nurse (wish I could remember her name) asked me if I wanted to get into the bathtub. I didn’t want to do this. The idea of giving birth in water somehow didn’t appeal to me. And I knew I didn’t like being in baths longer than ten minutes. She then suggested that I drape myself over a birthing ball in a hot shower. I did like this idea. At about 2:15 p.m. (not sure if this is the exact right time; I wasn’t keeping very good track of the time after this point), I got in the shower. There was really only room for one other person in the bathroom. The nurse stayed outside of the shower and Chris was just beyond in the room. In that position in the shower, I worked through my heavy contractions. During the contractions, I was able to go deep into myself. I felt like I had found my burrow and I was laboring away alone, like an animal and like I wanted. I do remember at one time, between contractions, expressing my guilt over the amount of water I was using. Chris told me I could go back to worrying about environmental issues after the baby was born.
I am not sure how long I stayed in the shower—likely 45-60 minutes. At one time, midwife Amy popped in to check in on me. She was going back and forth between my room and another room where a woman was in active labor. I think they thought for sure that the other woman would give birth before me. I finally got out of the shower because my knees began to hurt. Chris and the nurse got me out of the shower. I got onto the bed and was feeling very uncomfortable. I knew I couldn’t lie down. I felt sort of panicky and think I asked the nurse what I should do. I even think I might have asked for drugs, but the nurse told me I was so close and she believed I could do it without (which had been a part of my birthing plan—I did not want to be offered painkillers). I think at this time Chris tried to grab my hand and I pushed it away. I apologized to him in a small gap between contractions. I am pretty sure I was in transition at this point. It was very similar to how I felt right before I delivered my first son, where I remember looking at the two nurses in the room to anchor me, like I was a ship blown about at sea.
Trying to provide me with some direction, my labor nurse asked me if I wanted to lean over the back of the bed, which she would raise. I agreed to try it. So, once again, I was kneeling but with my stomach supported on pillows over the back of the raised bed. I then turned to her and told her that I felt the need to push. She called the midwife back in again (she had just checked on me in the shower about 15 minutes earlier and told me she’d check back in about an hour). I told Amy that I felt a great deal of pressure. She did an exam. I don’t even know how far along I was but she suggested breaking the bag of water to relieve some of the pressure. I agreed. She did this and saw the slightest big of meconium (the first poop excreted by newborns which can be dangerous if present at time of delivery). Because of the meconium, Amy told me that she’d have to call in the neonatal unit and my baby would have to be evaluated as soon as he was born. This bummed me out because it meant immediate cord cutting (without a chance for it to stop pulsing) and that my son wouldn’t be able to spend his first moments of life on my stomach. But, you agree to whatever is safest for your baby under the circumstances. And so we agreed.
At that time, Amy put on a big plastic visor and let me begin pushing. Upon our true admittance in the afternoon, I had discussed with her my preferred position for pushing. Because I was worried about delivering too quickly (because my second baby had come so fast), I asked if we could try pushing on my side. I had read this can slow down the baby’s exit and also helps minimize tearing. The next thing I knew, I was on my right side (or was it left). I think Chris or the nurse may have been holding one of my legs up. And I began pushing hard, as well as screaming. I hadn’t had a drop of painkiller and pushing was very painful. It hurt much worse than my first son’s delivery (also with no drugs) and I am not sure if that was because of the position I was in or because it had been so much longer, 14 years, since a baby had last exited me. Anyway, I pushed athletically and screamed for maybe five minutes. Maybe not even that long. It must have been about five or less pushes and he was out. As Amy had told us, she cut the cord right away and the nurse whisked him over to a small clear bassinet so that the neonatal nurse could check him out. I could see him and hear him crying. Chris went over to him. Joshua Glenwood Parton checked out okay, with nines on his Apgar scores, and was back with me in only five minutes, but it seemed an eternity. He was born at exactly 3:30 p.m. and weighed in at seven pounds, seven ounces. I believe he was 21 inches long—we do have it written down somewhere. I don’t remember too much else. Chris says there was lots of blood, but I didn’t see that. Earlier, Amy had asked me if I wanted to watch him being born with a mirror. I am glad I said no. All of that blood would have freaked me out. Besides, he was born so quickly, I don’t think there is anyway I could have focused on anything other than my pushing. In spite of the speed of his delivery, I ended up with just a small, superficial tear that only required a few stitches. Unlike the episiotomy with my daughter (ah, births in the early nineties!) and the more pronounced tear with my first son, this small tear didn’t even bother me. It healed so quickly and I really never even felt it. So, perhaps delivering on my side really did help, even if it seemed more painful than delivering in a squatting position with my first son (I can’t really compare to my daughter’s birth as I had a narcotic-type of pain reliever that made me kind of loopy and I really don’t feel like I was fully “present” at her birth, which I now regret–while still having compassion on the 22 year old “girl” who made that decision).
Although this pretty much concludes the birth story, here are some additional tidbits I’d like to remember. First, I had prayed that Josh would be born during the day, after a full night’s sleep, because I was remembering how challenging it is to begin caring for a newborn after you have had only a few hours sleep before going into labor, as was the case with my first two labors. This prayer was answered. I woke up well-rested (at least as well-rested as you can be when 39.5 weeks pregnant and uncomfortable) at about 5:45 a.m. and Josh was born by 3:30 p.m., so I was able to sleep again that night in the hospital, although in fits and bursts as I had Josh with me most of the night. Also, I went home the very next day so was only at the hospital about 24 hours, which is what I did with my other two as well. I always wanted to get home as quickly as possible and begin taking care of my babies without the hospital staff hovering over me.
Just before our discharge, Josh had the mandatory hearing screen now required by state law. We found out that Josh had failed his newborn hearing screening, which started our voyage into the world of hearing loss (as well as genetic testing). There was, however, the precious night before, after Chris had left to go home to sleep (mainly so that first son would not be home alone), that I was able to just lie in bed with my baby beside me, marveling at how very perfect he was. In fact, I remember even thinking that he had the most perfect little ears that I had ever seen. That small space of time, ignorant as it was, of not knowing the health issues we faced, is still so precious to me in my memory. Josh was “just” a beautiful baby. My beautiful baby. I don’t think that he even engaged in the birth canal until just before birth so he had a very round little head (no cone shape).
Finally, I must add that I had been seeing acupuncturist Lauren Fehr for the last six or so weeks of my pregnancy to help with the extreme nausea that had plagued my entire pregnancy. It actually helped more than anything else and I wish my midwife (Amy again) would have recommended it sooner. Anyway, at 39 weeks, the acupuncturist began treatments that would help my body open up and welcome delivery. These treatments are also supposed to help delivery go faster. I had a treatment on the 8th and on the 10th, in the afternoon. I really think this last treatment got the ball going and paved the way for a smooth delivery (albeit one where they didn’t even believe I was in labor until the final two hours before my son was born).