Caleb’s entry into the world got off to a slow start, but his birth was perfect.
The short version is my water broke Sunday morning, but I was in denial so we went to church. Then during church I decided we should go to the hospital, so we made arrangements for Simon and went in. I wasn’t having contractions but was admitted. Around 10:30 I lost my mucous plug and was feeling some mild contractions. By 12:30 things were moving and I called our doula. A rapid and intense labor followed and Caleb was born via unmedicated VBAC at 4:31 am.
Lori took these photos in the minutes after birth. I wouldn’t normally say I look great in these, but they capture the raw emotion of the moment. The long and overly detailed story below the pictures.
Caleb’s birth story really starts on Saturday Feb 8th, when Rob and Simon went to see Monster Trucks (a post of it’s own coming soon). When we bought these tickets we had always joked that it didn’t matter when I went into labor as long as I didn’t have a baby on Saturday. I had actually moved my haircut up and it was done, but still went to get my legs waxed and I took off my old nail polish – no chipped nails. I worked on a manuscript (that has been SUBMITTED!) Then I tweeted this*:
“If I can just finish this manuscript I will have completed every ‘must do before baby.’ Then maybe my body will decide it’s time.” I didn’t quite finish, but I got close.
Sunday morning Simon woke up around 6:45, I got up with him with no real plans other than a lazy Sunday morning followed by church then a little work and cleaning. I went to lie on Simon’s bottom bunk while he played in his room and I felt something. It didn’t feel like pee, but I didn’t think my water had broken with just this little trickle. (The point that there are only so many things it could be stuck with me most of the rest of the day.) I told Rob half jokingly to be ready for anything today.
Rob and Simon made blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I went to the bathroom again and there was more wetness, but still so little that I wasn’t convinced my water broke. I was feeling nothing else, no cramping or contractions. I sent this tweet:
“That awkward moment where you have to decide if your water broke or you peed yourself. Proceeding as normal for the time being…”
This led to some back and forth about what does water breaking look like. And some good wishes that contractions start soon. I called our doula, Lori, and put her on alert. I decided I wasn’t going to call the doctor quite yet, but enjoy breakfast and see what happened.
By the time we were ready to go to church I was pretty convinced it was nothing. The leaking was mucousy – which I’ve had on and off the last few weeks. I wore a pad and we went to church. At church Simon was being especially good during the singing so got to stay for all the songs. During the last song I felt something pass – like a period starting. So I took Simon to the nursery instead of Rob. I told him I’d come back for the last song (he really loves the music). Then I went to the bathroom and was pretty sure I was losing my mucous plug. Gross, but normal and not water breaking. I did decide though that I should call the doctor if things were starting. I saw a friend in the hall, alerted her we were probably going to the hospital to get checked out and could they take Simon after church. Called Lori again and told her I’d keep her posted. Called the OB and was told I should come in to check for amniotic fluid, which I figured they would, so really I’m glad I waited to call.
I went back into church to get Rob. As we were walking out I realized we had to go home first to get the insurance cards. On the walk home we decided to leave the hospital bag because I honestly thought they’d send me home. But I finished packing just in case throwing in the camera and toiletries. I grabbed the needed paperwork and the ipad to entertain me if there was a wait and we were on our way.
We took the subway and bus to the hospital. Noteworthy because every time someone asked how we were planning on getting to the hospital (we don’t have a car) I said, “Cab or maybe we’ll just take the train.” Which was ALWAYS met with looks of you must be crazy there is no way you’ll want to take the train to the hospital. But we did. At the hospital we went to triage and I noticed the contrast that Rob and I were in church clothes; a dress and boots for me. Everyone else was in legging and tees and had their stuff.
We got a triage room at 1:30, I peed in a cup, got changed into a gown, and hooked up to the monitors. The nurse tested the pad and it was negative for amniotic fluid, but the PA would also do an internal test / check. The PA came in, the baby looked good I was having no contractions. The internal check was also negative for amniotic fluid but lots of mucous. I was 1 cm and 50%. We got a quick ultrasound and while baby looked good and head was in position there was no amniotic fluid. So yeah, water broke and was gone.
The OB on call, Dr. C, came in and I asked about going home since it was now about 2 pm and I was hungry and NOT in labor as I was feeling no contractions. I would come back in a few hours or if things started. Dr. C said that I really should be admitted. So I asked if Rob could get me lunch when since he had to run home for the bag. She agreed to the food so I agreed to be admitted.
I texted Lori and let her know she should make her way to the hospital. Rob and I talked quickly through our Simon options. Since he was fine with our friends and their kids and they were ok keeping him overnight, we decided to leave him there. I called to let them know what was going on and that Rob would be home so they could pick up Simon’s overnight and daycare stuff.
My nurse was Michael, and a male nurse was weird for about half a second, but he was pretty awesome. There was a wireless monitor available so I was able to move freely and be monitored continuously. And he was nice enough to turn off the sound when I asked, because that drove me batty in labor with Simon the constant beeping and hearing the heart beat for hours. Michael and I did the paper work. Lori showed up. Rob called with questions about where I had put Simon’s bags. He saw Simon briefly when our friends drove over to pick up his stuff. Simon was a little confused, but went with it. I’m glad he got to see Rob.
At 2:30 Dr. C and Michael came back and said I was actually having a lot of contractions. They were irregular, but they’d like me to have the Hep Lock (previously had said we could delay until contractions). Fine – as long as I can still eat my sandwich – which was tantalizingly close. Rob finally got back and I ate. It was amazing. Lori had also given me some apple slices and chocolate she had with her just in case they changed their minds on the whole eating thing before Rob got back.**
While I was eating our doula got a call from another expecting mom who was in labor! She went down to the lobby to talk to the mom and find her a back-up doula. Rob and I chatted a bit and I decided to nap – I didn’t sleep, but I did rest and started feeling mild contractions every 8-15 minutes. I got up around 6 and stopped feeling anything, but was starting to get restless and bored. The rush of excitement that came with being admitted had worn off and I was starting to feel discouraged that nothing seemed to be happening.
Oh, but I did have a strange rash on both of my hands. It wasn’t connected to any adhesive and after some investigation we are pretty sure it was a reaction to the soap and hot water since I was washing my hands so often (lots of bathroom use going on). I got some baby soap and washed with cold water, which helped and the rash never got worse.
Dr. C checked in, contractions were still happening – even though I wasn’t feeling them. We talked about “the plan.” Due to risk of infection there wasn’t a reason to check me again until things picked up. As much as I like having data I know it would have been discouraging to be told nothing had changed… I also knew we were coming up on 12 hours post water breaking. The official time at the hospital was 8am (I was vague when asked). Dr. C said if by 8 am things weren’t moving / we didn’t have a baby that they would start a low dose of pito.cin and give me up to 12 more hours depending on the condition. This was way more lenient than I thought this would go. And we were all still hoping for best case scenario, that I would do this on my own. It was easier to be positive out loud, internally I was starting to think that things might not go how I wanted.
Lori asked how I would feel about her going home for awhile to give us some time alone and so she could sleep – she had been sitting on the window sill all afternoon and lives just cross town. I was fine with this. But first she suggested Rob go get some dinner since everything in the hospital was closed on Sunday, but there are quite a few restaurants around this west side hospital. Rob went out and grabbed a pot pie for him and some cornbread for me from Boston Market. Lori and I came up with a check in schedule then she left. Rob and I ate and then FaceTimed with Simon.
To let you know just how much he didn’t miss us, the whole conversation was him showing me toys he was playing with.
At 9:00 we settled in to watch Downton Abbey. I started feeling contractions again every 10 minutes or so. They still didn’t hurt, but they were consistent. At the conclusion I went to the bathroom and lost the rest of the mucous plug with some bloody show. Things might be getting real???
Dr. C came in with my night nurse, Melissa around 10:30. The first thing was chastising me for eating dinner. She thought that it was clear that after lunch I wouldn’t eat anything else. And really I wasn’t planning on it but when Rob came back with food it just smelled good. And I WASN’T ACTUALLY IN LABOR. Let’s just keep remembering that. I told her it was a piece of cornbread. And she then asked me to please stop eating since I was now starting to feel contractions. I was fine with this because I was no longer hungry.
Since I was worried about dehydration but didn’t want a constant IV we agreed on IV fluids every four hours, starting at 2:30, since I had just finished a bottle of water and Dr. C didn’t want me drinking now that I was feeling things. Melissa did ask me to take some sips of water every hour though. J
I mentioned the bloody show and Dr. C decided to check my cervix. 2-3 cm and 50%. CRAP! This was progress, but very SLOW progress. (After this entire exchange I realized that the dinner we were arguing about – since I got pretty defensive about it – was one piece of cornbread three hours earlier. Which now is just funny to me.)
I texted Lori with an update and Rob and I talked. We decided we should try to sleep since the night or the next day were going to be intense. I probably should have given Rob the bed since he actually did go to sleep, but the recliner wasn’t too bad. I lay down for a few minutes but the contractions were getting stronger. I paced around the room and alternated between sitting on the ball leaning on the bed and the bathroom sitting on the toilet. This is the only part of labor where I used Hypnobabies well. I was able to “turn off” during each contraction and mostly relax through it. Things were getting more intense, but I was content to labor on my own in a dark room.
At 12:33 I had this text exchange with Lori-
Me: Def feeling all now. Moving between ball and toilet. Letting Rob sleep. At the moment I’m doing well in the dark and quiet. This is what I remember labor to feel like.
L: Ok, but it will go faster this time. Don’t leave me home to long.
Me: I’ll update you in 30. Prob have you come back then.
Me: Or go ahead and start making your way back because that one made me want to puke.
L: Ok…be back soon.
I gave Rob until about 1:00 then I woke him and he should get ready. After washing up he started rubbing my lower back through the contractions. I got on the bed and did a few on my hands and knees leaning over the bed. I also decided that I needed to start timing contractions NOW, so I download a contraction timer to my phone. I timed for about 30 minutes and was having ctx every 4 minutes lasting about a minute. And after I saw that they were that often I said “ok, done with that, now it’s just stressing me out.” Ha.
Lori came back! Rob put on the HypnobBabies tracks to play through out loud. The HB tracks were really soothing. I wasn’t consciously listening to them, but it created a nice atmosphere and helped me occasionally remember to use my “off switch” which I was pretty good with the second half of each contraction. Going into them was a lot more ow oh, low vocal, then OFF to come out. I did this for awhile and moved back to between the bathroom and ball for a bit. Somewhere in all of this I threw up in the bathroom. Which was a relief physically. And glad I had food in me to get out.
At 1:30 Melissa came back in because the wireless monitor finally ran out of batteries. I was sitting on the ball leaned over the bed. I told her I was feeling really dehydrated. We decided that continuous IV fluids were a good idea. She put on the new fetal monitor and I was going to have to stay close to the bed because of the wires. I also said I my legs were starting to feel really weak. Melissa requested that I get back in the bed if my legs were weak. I was really, really ok with this request. The contractions were intense enough that I just wanted to lay down. Rob actually had to half lift me into the bed. So I lay on my side and pulled up on the bed rail for a kind of counter pressure movement. Lori and Rob mostly just ignored my declining of everything they offered and did it anyhow – like the ice packs. I was getting a little nuts and had no idea what I wanted. I did left them know if something felt bad, but mostly I let them do what they could. The ice packs were pretty freaking amazing and Rob moved them from my back and side to my legs or neck. Lori rubbed my hands and talked me through each contraction helping to remind me to vocalize with low tones.
Everything just started to run away from me and I was half crying through almost every contraction. I know I was to a point where I was saying I couldn’t do it and I didn’t want to and this hurt too much. There was a part of me that was waiting for Rob or Lori to let me off the hook and ask me if I wanted an epidural. My thought for this birth had been that I wanted no epidural if possible but that if things got to where I was getting no break – which is what happened in my labor with Simon – I would opt for the relief. With Simon I NEVER had a break between contractions; it was constant for nearly 11 hours, until I got the epidural. To their credit they didn’t say it (I had asked them not to.) And finally I asked. This was around 2:30 maybe. Lori called Melissa and we were told the anesthesiologist was in surgery so it would have to wait. I cried. And we kept going, because what else could we do.
Rob did tell me afterward that he would have challenged the epidural had the anesthesiologist been available. Partly because he knew I didn’t really want it. But more because he didn’t want it to slow things down and be any part of the reason a C-section might happen. I love that he was so good and active during this whole process and we had talked in detail about what we wanted.
I was getting really scared here. I couldn’t see the end – I mean I know a BABY – but I felt like I had hours to go and I knew I couldn’t do this for hours. but time was moving fast at this point. Each hour really felt like only a few minutes. At 3:30 Dr. C came back in and somehow Rob and Lori got me turned so that I could get checked again. This time I was 9 cm and +1. This is good. But I don’t think I really believed I was so close. I had got it in my head that I had hours to go and that I couldn’t do it and had let the fear that this was going to end in another c-section cloud everything. Around this time I had told Rob to turn off the HB as it was no longer soothing and just adding noise.
From here on I was NOT calm. I cried a lot and was in that land of crazy talk. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t think I could do this. And I just wanted it to be over. The contractions were rolling at this point and I felt like I had lost all control of pain management. I was having a hard time keeping my voice low. And maybe every third contraction I was able to turn off. They were rolling now and as one was ending the next one was starting. I kept saying I felt like I was going to puke. What I meant (I realize now) is that I was feeling the urge to push. Once Lori figured that out she called the nurse. And we were told someone would be there soon. Since I had been told not to push until Dr. C and nurse got there. But they didn’t come. We called again. And they still didn’t come. (Something was going on with the woman in the room next to mine – no idea what, but it tied up several nurses and Dr. C for awhile). Lori finally told me to go with my body and push if I needed to. This was not fun or probably all that productive. But allowing my body to bear down was the only thing that was offering any relief.
Lori finally went out to the hall to tell the nurses/Dr. C/whoever was available that I WAS READY. Someone told L that I had just been checked and wasn’t. L said that was 45 minutes earlier and I was ready. L came back to me. Then we heard an argument – or at least loud voices – discussing whether I was in fact ready. I was thinking it kind of doesn’t matter if you think I am or not my body is pushing and I need to get this baby out or get pain relief NOW!!!
Dr. C finally came with Melissa (a little after 4:00) when I got turned – hey guess what she could see the head. I was still running from the contractions, stretching my body up instead of down. My hair had come out of the ponytail and I said that I needed to fix my hair befor I could push – one of many crazy things – Lori put my hair up while Rob laughed. Lori and Melissa talked me through how close I was and that I could do this. The bed was broken down. Rob just held my hand. And maybe a leg – I don’t really remember. Dr. C talked me through pushing. I feel like it was all very loud. I was still kind of freaking out and there were three people talking me down. After two not so great pushes through two contractions I asked to rest and I did – I guess this was during a break… Then over three contractions (I think) I pushed five times and the head was out. It hurt like hell. One more and Caleb was on my chest. Then it was amazing. The relief and the rush and wow I actually did this.
I don’t remember him crying. But Rob and I both had the happy tears. I got to just hold Caleb immediately. This was the thing I wanted most. Dr. C asked if we were collecting cord blood, since we were not she waited until the cord stopped pulsing (a few minutes) then cut the cord (Rob declined). Then it was time to deliver the placenta. I asked if I could push and Dr. C said if you want go ahead. That push was the most satisfying. Something came out and it didn’t hurt. Getting to see the placenta was pretty cool. Dr. C showed how it had all connected. I meant to ask Rob to take a picture but forgot.
I had a second degree tear so while I was getting stitched up Melissa took Caleb to the warmer to get weighed and measured and foot-printed. We left him diaper free but he was wrapped up in a towel and got a hat and Rob held him while Dr. C finished. Then I got him back.
The worst part of the after birth time was the pressing/massaging of my stomach to help my uterus contract down. That hurt so bad and caused my legs to shake. Not sure if this was before or after the stitching – maybe both. I just remember that it hurt.
One hour post birth Caleb was taken back to the warmer for the eye ointment and vitamin K shot (both of which are mandatory here). He got a diaper too. And I got a clean gown J
I remember Lori leaving while we were in the Labor room. At our follow-up meeting she told me it was after breastfeeding. I was glad to hear this because when Rob and I were talking we couldn’t remember if I had even tried to nurse before moving to the post-partum floor.
At 7:15 I moved to a wheel chair. I had to move slowly: sit up, legs to floor, stand using IV as support, move to chair. But I did it all on my own. Caleb was tied in my arms with a bed sheet. Rob grabbed the bags and we moved downstairs to the post partum unit.
Despite the slow start this birth experience was better than I dreamed it could be.
Recovery and emotional processing to come…
*I never thought I’d tweet so much during the process, but there was a lot of waiting. Since we were letting people know about the nothing that was happening on a very limited need to know basis, it was nice to be able to have this outlet with my online friends who have been pregnancy and parenting support over the last year. I’m also happy for the record.
**I never thought eating would be a theme of this story. Because when in actual labor eating is the LAST thing I want to do. But since I wasn’t actually in labor, just hanging out in a hospital room enjoying their cable, I was starving. And had I been at home – I would be eating. (Boredom was the other theme I didn’t expect to feel.)