At my medical appointment last week, I was measuring small. I always measure small. But the nurse practitioner thought 4 cm was too small and encouraged me to get an ultrasound and an NST. And on Monday, the OB called and said *and here is where I would start crying if we were having a real conversation at the moment* that they suspected the baby was experiencing Intra Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) and she highly recommended a hospital birth.
At 38 weeks, 4 days, Baby was measuring 35 weeks 1 day. Less than six pounds, doctor said. 10th percentile for growth.
Devo and I had always said that we believe home birth is the safest choice for a normal, healthy birth, but if there were ever any problems, we would want to be at the hospital.
And this was a problem. Phrases like “when baby is compromised…” and “increased mortality rate” definitely constitute a problem. The biggest risks were that the baby would not handle labor or post-birth well. At which point you would want access to an emergency c-section or a NICU.
So Tuesday morning we went in to be induced. Which sounds so fluffy pansy…people say all the time “I went in to be induced” like it’s nothing.
The hardest part was leaving the kids behind. The only time we’ve left them for more than a couple of hours was to celebrate our anniversary in Guam. And this time we were leaving them, and they weren’t getting to come along and see their baby being born.
Lia said that I was the like the lion. The lion? The lion from the Wizard of Oz? Yes, Mom, because you need courage. <tears>
And Levi sang for me his favorite VBS medley, “Be brave…I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord.” <more tears>
They were very gracious and courageous…the prospect of a day and a night with two babysitters was enticing enough. Levi didn’t even cry. But I did. Of course.
It was like we were on a date, Devo and I. A date filled with fear and dread. But a date nonetheless…we hadn’t been anywhere just the two of us since like March. Kind of romantic.
So we got in a 9am. And finally began the induction at about 12:30. We started with the non-medication induction of a Foley bulb catheter. Which wasn’t actually too bad. I’d never heard of it…it’s a little catheter that is inserted into the cervix and then a little balloon is blown up to about 4 cm. When the cervix opens to accomodate the balloon, the thing falls out and away you go.
Except that the contractions petered out as soon as the thing fell out.
In the meantime, we napped or chatted or enjoyed visitors. Karen, our midwife, and Carol, her apprentice, came to be with us and were in and out throughout the day. Marni and Kevin stopped by for awhile. I went pee about 13 times….which is no small feat hooked up to a jillion cords. I finally named the heart and contraction monitor cords…Lola and Georgette. Devo named the IV pole “the antichrist”, a la The Gods Must Be Crazy.
We spent the first few hours trying to acclimate ourselves to the hospital room. We felt like fish out of water…just way out of our element with all those machines and cords everywhere. I wanted to own the room, to make this sterile baby factory into our own sacred birthing space.
Great nurses, great doctors. So (surprisingly) accommodating to us homebirthers. But they were in the middle of a very busy day, so Step 2 – Pitocin – didn’t get going until 6:30pm.
The contractions really got going around 8:30pm. This was going to be the baby where I labored still and quietly, and had to alert people to the coming of the baby (like those hypnobirth stories)…but once I got out of bed to pee (again, with Lola, Georgette, and the antichrist), I never got back in. And the volume definitely went up.
Devo and I did it all together. That’s something I’ve always appreciated about Karen, our midwife. Even though she is present, she always gives us our space to birth our baby together, without interference. I don’t think he missed a single contraction, he was always there to push or rub on my sacrum during a contraction, and whisper encouragement in between. My hips were actually getting sore and numb from being pushed so hard, but I couldn’t do without it. I spent most of labor either standing over the side of the bed, resting on pillows, or in the bathroom, holding onto the bar and pressing my head against the tiles. I’m surprised I don’t have any bruises, on my forehead or my hips.
As the intensity built, I started to move during each contraction…a figure eight, like a hula dancer. I’m really surprised my legs aren’t sore now, because they were starting to get trembly. And then I started to hum, and hummed through the rest of labor.
I figured out that if I could take a deep breath and get through two full, long hums, I would have made it through the worst part of the contraction. And if I could keep my concentration on the sensation of the humming where my forehead touched the bathroom tile or my hands, even better. The third hum was to finish off the contraction, sometimes a fourth hum, to dissipate any remaining energy.
And then a pep talk to not think ahead to the next one, but to enjoy the moments of relief.
I was starting to get a little shaky and some hiccups when Carol asked me where I thought I was, dilation wise. I’m always overly hopeful, and I know that, so I didn’t want to say that I thought I was getting close to the end, but I really thought I was at least 8cm.
The midwife came in to check and pronounced me at 6-7 cm, fully effaced. Everybody but me thought that was great. My courage, which had been on a rollercoaster ride all day (up, then down, then up, then down) plummeted.
But the only way out was to go through, and all I wanted was to be done. It takes a lot of willpower to be willing to go through to the end of dilation…but I knew I had to do it if I wanted it to end. So I told my body to finish up the job, open up, open up. Yes, body, I’m not just saying that this time…I really truly mean it. Get on with it!
I found the contraction timing app on Devo’s phone yesterday. At around 10pm, I was having contractions that were 40 seconds long, every 1:30. That was 12 contractions in 20 minutes.
I don’t know what time the midwife checked me, but after that things really started to build up quickly. The contractions were stronger, closer together. I started to get really shaky in my hums, no matter how hard I concentrated. I was searching, searching for any clue that it was time to start pushing. I remembered phrases like “in transition, the contractions start to overlap”.
This was the part that had been causing me all the anxiety for weeks. The part where no matter how hard you concentrate, no matter what will power you put in, no matter how much you relax and flow and breathe…it still pushes you out and beyond what you have. You can’t even choose to fall apart…there’s no space to fall apart in the intensity. The only option is to endure.
Finally, I thought I felt something deep, low, and back.
A personal check proved baby to be only two knuckles away.
I think I did my first push or two still standing while Carol dashed outside to find the midwife. Luckily she was just right outside the door.
I hopped on the bed (between contractions, always move fast) and she said that baby was right there and did I want her to pop my bag? Yes, yes! And hurry. She got the amniohook and popped it, and down came baby. I have no visual memories of any of this at the end, my eyes were screwed tightly shut.
I felt the baby’s head crowning while I was pushing, and I could feel that the midwife was pushing the baby’s head back…and it HURT. I reached down (eyes shut) and said, “Stop pushing on the head!” And she said, “I don’t have any gloves on!” and I was like, “That’s OK!!!”
The baby’s head was born. And I told myself, out loud, eyes still shut tight, “One more”…and with one more push (although it seemed like sections…shoulders, tummy, legs…not just a woosh), the baby was out.
And I heard “It’s a GIRL!” – Devo announced it, since the girls weren’t there to check and make the announcement.
And there she was. Up on my tummy and sweet as sweet could be. Covered in vernix.
6 pounds, 11 oz, at 12:10am. On our midwife Karen’s birthday.
The placenta was born minutes later (vs. 45 minutes like usual), probably thanks to the pitocin. It was a itty bitty placenta. We took a picture for the girls.
The next morning (or, later that morning), Devo went home and picked up the kids. They had baked a birthday cake. Lemon with frosting and sprinkles. It was so fun to introduce them to the baby. We unwrapped her like a birthday present, so they could see for themselves whether it was a boy or a girl.
And we named her Kiri Annaliese. Which fits her just perfectly.
We spent the day passing Kiri from person to person, covering her in sticky kisses and squeezes, poking fingers in her eyes and her mouth, more kisses and squeezes, tussles over who gets to hold her and for how long. And, eventually, Tom & Jerry on the TV, a trip with Uncle Allan down to the gift shop to get two more balloons (1 for each child), and finally, shooing them out the door before we all went insane.
We went home at 6:30pm that evening. It was the best hospital birth situation I’d ever seen or heard of, and we were so grateful for the consideration and care of the people there.
But now that we’re home and recovering and considering, I have a growing sense of what we lost in a hospital birth. I’m particularly heartbroken about the kids not being there for the baby’s birth…I don’t know how to reconcile with that loss.
I’ve always been enthusiastic about homebirth, but now that I personally know the difference between a home birth and an ideal hospital birth…there just is no comparison. I’ve never been one to really push homebirth in a conversation … but now that I really really know the difference between the two, I’m suspecting I’m going to become a much more outspoken homebirth advocate. The difference in the quality of care is just astounding.
But maybe we can talk about that another day. For now I’m going to go admire my perfect baby girl and indulge in a few kisses…