I did not mean for 10 whole weeks to pass before chronicling the details of Simon’s birth. But, here it is, The (very long) Birth Story.
We were fairly convinced that Simon would arrive past his due date. While pregnant, I heard from others how their first babies were always late; both my midwife and doctor told me I would probably be late (just their speculation); and at my 38 week check up, I was told that Simon had not begun to engage and so there was proof he’d be late. With a due date of November 27, I began to think that December 2 sounded reasonable. And so, I was prepared to wait until early December for my sweet baby boy to make his appearance, though I desperately wanted Simon to have a November birthday.
On Friday, November 19, I told Simon that he could come any day after the 20th since we were planning on doing a million loads of laundry Saturday and all the “labor and delivery” snack foods were set to arrive in Saturday’s grocery delivery. I put in a request for the 21st as it was a weekend day (and best for CK) and our engage-iversary (the day sweet CK proposed) and it was a full moon (and I had heard that labor and delivery units are bustling every full moon) and we’d definitely be home in time for Thanksgiving (the 25th this year). Of course, though, I figured this was all nonsense and I wouldn’t have a baby until at least December 2.
Saturday morning, we loaded up an unbelievable amount of laundry and headed to the laundromat. I wasn’t feeling that great, but that wasn’t unusual as the last couple weeks of my pregnancy were a bit uncomfortable. After all the clothes were in washers, I decided that I would walk to a neighboring convenient store to get a soda – except a soda didn’t sound good to me (which was highly unusual). I came back with a Powerade and drank the bottle very quickly. I felt like I might be coming down with a fever and hoped it wasn’t the flu or a bad cold.
I made it through the wash and dry cycles and somehow managed to fold a lot of laundry before we were finally on our way. It was about lunch time and Matt was starving so we stopped by our favorite sandwich shop. The woman who always works Saturdays chatted with me about the baby and said she thought he’d be here any day. I smiled and thought to myself, “Yeah right. I wish.” I barely ate half my chicken and avocado sandwich, but drank my orange juice quickly. I was definitely ready to get home and just crawl into bed.
The walk home was challenging for us both. I was trying not to throw up and poor CK was hauling ALL the laundry (packed in suitcases and a very large duffle bag he wore like a backpack). I just kept thinking, “Please God, let me not get sick until after the baby is born. Let this not be the flu. Not even a cold. I cannot handle being sick and pregnant!” The minute we got home, I laid down (after CK made the bed with clean linens) and sweet CK put all the laundry away and then went to wait for our grocery delivery.
I didn’t feel like eating dinner that evening and kept resting. I took two showers hoping each time the hot water would magically make me feel better. The second shower I took was the longest shower I’ve probably ever taken and I prayed and prayed in there not to be sick. We tried taking my temperature with the baby forehead thermometer we bought for Simon and discovered that it is true, you get what you pay for (as we opted for the very cheap one, we found it did not work very well). Eventually we found a real thermometer and confirmed that I was running a fever. It was low and we didn’t think we needed to go the hospital/doctor, so I continued to rest and finally fell asleep.
I awoke with a start at 10 pm. Some kind of sharp pain in my lower abdomen made me suddenly sit straight up in bed. As quickly as it had come, it was gone – but, I was awake and I had to go to the bathroom. CK was on the computer and came to help me get out of bed. Just as I was pulling down my underwear, a trickle of water came out that I knew was not pee. I called to CK, “Um, I think my water might’ve just broken.” We had been told in our birth classes at the hospital that rarely does your water break like you see in the movies – and often times your water never breaks before you are in labor (which surprised me!). I wasn’t expecting my water to break, though I was hoping it would so I would have a definite signal that something was going to happen. The hospital midwives who ran the birthing classes told us that if your water does break, put a pad on and wait to see if the pad gets soaked before you call the hospital. I remained very calm remembering that often once your water breaks, it could be a very long time before the baby arrives, so I put the pad on and headed back to bed – afterall, I wasn’t having contractions.
Back in bed, I started to feel a pain in my lower abdomen again. I told CK that I thought I might be having a contraction, but it felt nothing like what I read. The pain was very quick, not too bad, and concentrated in my lower abdomen. I remember saying, “Maybe we should start writing this stuff down. Oh, and we should probably get a hospital bag together.” Yes, I was 39 weeks pregnant and the bag was not packed. Remember, I had time! CK scurried around to find a pad of paper and pen and began keeping track of what I thought might be contractions – and he got the bag out and we started thinking of things to put in it.
At some point close to 11 pm, I felt a gush and knew the pad was soaked through. I went back to the bathroom and sat down on the toilet where more fluid came out and I had a very sharp pain. I told CK I was probably going to be sick and he gave me the kitchen garbage can just in time for me to throw up. I sat on the toilet a little while longer and threw up again when the next contraction hit. At this time I was wondering whether or not we should call the hospital and I just knew I was going to be one of those women who would be sent home, so I wanted to wait as long as I could and labor at home. However, I thought it’d be a good idea to call our friend Judith (who happened to be our ride to the hospital and the manager of the midwives on the delivery suite).
Judith had just gotten home from a shift at the hospital when I called. I told her what happened and she said she would get dressed and be right over – that I needed to go to the hospital “since my waters had gone” to get checked. She thought I’d probably be sent back home, but bring our bag just in case. After I hung up with Judith, I thought I should get dressed, too, and charge up the batteries for the cameras and iPod. The hospital bag was finally zipped up and I made sure all the snacks I had planned were packed (granola bars, grapes, and two kinds of cookies – ginger thins and oatmeal chocolate chip). I also thought that now was the time I should call my mom. I remember standing in our bedroom and telling her, “We’re going to the hospital. My water broke.” On our way out to meet Judith, I grabbed the blow dryer to straighten out my bangs. I thought, “Well, what if the baby is coming tonight? We’re going to take pictures and I don’t want my bangs sticking up.”
We got to the hospital close to midnight and boy was it awesome arriving with the manager! She walked us straight in and sat us down in an examining room where we waited for someone to come in and take my vitals. At this point, I was feeling pretty poorly. I was sitting in a chair and all of a sudden, a huge gush came out of me and I threw up. I did not expect to throw up with the contractions nor did I have any idea that gushes would continue to happen with my contractions right up until it was time to push. Pretty soon after I got to the hospital I turned to CK and said, “I’m not sure I can do this without pain medication. I think I want to get the epidural.” I wanted a natural birth with water as my only pain relief. It was going to be fine – I would take showers and labor in the birthing pool. Oh, and listen to music. I also didn’t have any idea how painful the contractions would be. CK was wonderful and supportive and encouraged me to get the epidural if I thought I wanted or needed it – that I wasn’t a failure if I got one.
My blood pressure was absolutely great, as it had been throughout my entire pregnancy. However, both my heart rate and Simon’s were extremely high and I was running a fever, so I was hooked up to two monitors as I awaited a midwife to come do an internal examine to see how dilated I was. Meanwhile, sweet Judith waited outside in case I was being sent home as she was my ride. When I was checked, I was 3 cm dilated which is usually cause to be sent home (they keep you once you’re 4 cm). However, since I was running a fever (which meant infection) and since both heart rates were high, they were keeping me. Judith came in to say good bye and I remember telling her how much it hurt and that I thought I might need an epidural. She smiled at me and said it was ok, that lots of women get them. She also said, “I’ll see you at 7 when I’m back on duty and by then maybe you’ll have a baby.” I thought, “You’re kidding, right? First labors are horrendously long! And I’m only 3 cm! I’ll be lucky if I have this baby by 7 PM!”
I told the midwife that I thought I might want an epidural and I wanted to stop throwing up. She said that she would give me anti-nausea medicine and could give me a mild dose of diamorphine, but first I had to have an IV hooked up with some fluids because I was also dehydrated. A doctor came in and tried unsuccessfully to get and IV going in both wrists. They said they’d transfer me to another room and wait for the anaesthesiologist to come start the IV and he’d talk about the epidural at that time.
I hobbled down the hall to another room, still not a delivery room. At this point it became clear to me that I was not going to be able to use water as pain relief. The hospital is very strict about not letting any labouring woman go in the pool or even take a bath if blood pressure or heart rate have to be monitored. This realization made me panic a little and also made me sure that I wanted the epidural. I told the midwife I was with that I decided I definitely wanted an epidural and she told me I’d have to wait until the anaesthesiologist was out of “theatre” (what they call surgery). I settled into the new bed and a new midwife came in and said she’d like to try starting the IV herself, did I mind? She successfully got the IV in and so the first round of fluids went in. Meanwhile, I was in quite a bit of pain. CK could watch the monitor and see when I was having a contraction and they certainly seemed very close together. The same midwife came back and administered the anti-nausea medicine and diamorphine at 1 am. She assured me I would feel better and it would help a lot with the pain. I believed her and waited a very long time – but nothing. I was still very, very nauseous and the pain seemed to intensify. I reiterated that I wanted the epidural. I called my mom again, who had trouble understanding me as the cell phone was not getting good reception and I was trying to talk through contractions. CK talked to her a bit and then called his dad to tell him we were at the hospital.
A couple hours later (I’m not sure of the exact time as my watch had been removed for the IV attempts), I needed to use the bathroom. I was still asking for the epidural and the midwife told me that it might be too soon for the epidural – that if I got it too soon, it could slow things down. They’d have to check me again – FINE!! I was already 7 cm dilated and she agreed I could have the epidural BUT I’d have to be transferred to a delivery room first AND a community midwife would have to be paged to come in to look after me (because if a patient has an epidural, there must be a midwife with them assigned to only their care). It was at this point I knew that an epidural was probably not going to happen. I figured I was too close – having gone from 3 to 7 cm in just a couple hours, I was sure I would be 10 cm before the on call midwife would get there. The pain was very bad and the contractions were right on top of each other.
I still needed to use the bathroom, so CK helped me up and we went to the bathroom. I don’t know how long I was in there, but CK thinks it was an hour (pretty unlikely – maybe 30 minutes). Each time I would stand up, a bigger, stronger contraction would hit and I would have to sit back down. Eventually a midwife came to the door and told us that there was a delivery room available just down the hall. I mustered the strength to leave the bathroom, but I told them I could not bear to walk down the hall – at least not fast enough and there were still gushes of fluid coming out with every contraction. Someone went to fetch a wheelchair (which was the most dated wheelchair I had ever seen – a chair with four tiny wheels on it!). We made it to our room and I sat on the bed, not able to even lie down.
Some other midwife came in the room at this point. I was happy to see her until it was clear she was not the one we were waiting for, the one who was assigned only to me and meant I could finally get the epidural. This midwife told me I was hyperventilating (I not so politely told her I was not, that I was fine). At some point I told her that I was afraid I couldn’t get the epidural, that I feared I was too far along. It got to the point when I was involuntarily pushing with each contraction as I sat on the edge of the bed. I remembered reading that no one ever needs to tell you to push – that your body takes over when you move into the second stage of labor and you begin to push involuntarily. This concerned me because my midwife STILL wasn’t there. I mentioned that I was involuntarily pushing and thought I was probably 10 cm. I’m not sure she took me seriously and she said, “Just wait, Niki’s almost here.”
My midwife, Niki, showed up shortly after I began to involuntarily push – and she brought a student with her to watch! Surprisingly, I didn’t mind the extra set of eyes. I told Niki that I thought I was ready to push and that meant it was probably too late for the epidural. I finally made myself lay back in bed so she could check me and I was indeed 10 cm and I was right, no epidural. I cried at this point because I had NO idea how I was going to be able to push the baby out. I mentioned to Niki that I had the anti-nausea medicine and the diamorphine, but still was nauseous and still felt a tremendous amount of pain. She dismissed both the drugs and said, “The anti-nausea medicine simply prevents you from throwing up, it doesn’t take the feeling away. And diamorphine doesn’t help with pain, it just makes you very drowsy so you can rest between contractions.” I was very angry, but so ready to push the baby out. However, my bladder was full and Niki asked if I could empty it. I said that it didn’t even feel like I needed to go, so I soon learned that meant she had to put a catheter in. I was not a fan of this idea and very desperately pleaded that it be taken out immediately after the birth. She said that she could do that – and eventually the catheter was in (the contractions were so strong and right on top of each other that I had to ask her to wait while I rolled on my side and waited for them to pass).
Pushing time! At 4:45 I was able to begin pushing. I was absolutely amazed at how good it felt to begin to push. I don’t remember any pain at this point – the contractions still came, but I was able to push through them. Between the contractions I chatted with Niki and the student and asked them questions about the births of their children. The pushes were hard work and they were much more tiring than I thought. With every contraction Niki wanted me to do three sets of very hard pushes. Sometimes I could only manage 2 before the contraction was over. I told Niki that one of my biggest fears was tearing or having to have an episiotomy and she told me that everything would be fine, that she would try her hardest to prevent that from happening, and that when she told me to stop pushing, that I must pant. And so, I did.
CK stayed with me the entire time, of course. He held my hand as I squeezed it very hard and he was amazed at how red my face turned with each push. From his vantage point, he was also able to watch the whole thing and was able to see Simon be born. As soon as she got a good glimpse of the head, Niki told me he had hair and I was able to reach down and feel his head. Of course the head was the hardest to get out, but as soon as his little head was out, the rest of him came out very easily. At 5:32 am, our little Simon Andrew was with us (8 lbs, 21 in). His cord was a bit short, so he wasn’t able to come all the way up to my chest, but laid on his left side on my stomach. He didn’t cry at first and both CK and I thought it was the sweetest sound when he finally did cry. I was struck by how purple he looked, but Niki assured me he was a normal color (though in the pictures right after his birth, he looks very purple!). It was amazing to finally meet this tiny person who’d been growing inside for 9 months.
I was able to rest for a while with Simon on my tummy as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing. I didn’t want it cut too soon. After about 15 minutes, Niki took Simon and CK cut the cord and CK held him for a while as the placenta needed to come out. 23 minutes after Simon was born I was able to deliver the placenta, which was all intact, and then I got Simon back and Niki helped get him to nurse, which he did for a good hour. In the meantime, Judith came by at 7 am when her shift started and the student midwife fixed us coffee, tea, and toast. Oh, it tasted good!
While I nursed him, Niki wheeled over the placenta and did this inspection in front of us (we mentioned we were interested). She gave us each a pair of gloves and we got to touch it! Even though Simon was a week early, the placenta had reached its “shelf-life” and wasn’t doing anything for him anymore. It was gritty, which is characteristic of a placenta that is late. Also, Simon’s skin was pealy – characteristic of a gritty placenta and a late baby. After I nursed him for an hour, Niki did all the checks on Simon (including his weight and length), got him dressed, handed him off to daddy, and eventually Simon went down in his little cot. I was able to get up and take a shower – and I think that shower was the longest shower I’d ever had in my life! It felt wonderful! While I was in the shower, Judith came back in the room and asked if she could text some people at church – of course! I remember walking out of the bathroom and looking at CK and saying, “I feel absolutely wonderful. It doesn’t feel like I just had a baby at all!” (In our haste to pack the hospital bag we did not pack any toiletry items except for my toothbrush and toothpaste. We were shocked to discover the hospital doesn’t provide soap or shampoo. Niki laughed and said, “This is not the States!” She tracked me down some Johnsons & Johnsons baby bath that was heaven!)
I called my mom when I got out of the shower and told her the details. We took pictures on the cell phone and emailed them to her. We waited a few minutes and Niki was back – we were ready to be transferred to our post delivery room (it was close to 10 am now) – a huge room with 6 beds sectioned off by privacy curtains. I had to sit in a wheelchair and hold Simon. Once we settled into our “room,” CK texted his work friend and we sent a few emails as it was too early to call people back in the US.
If you read until the end, well done! More pictures from his birthday can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alisabethpix/sets/72157625462327290/