Big Baby And A Very Fast Labor
I wanted a natural birth because I had an epidural for most of labor with my second child, and felt pretty disconnected from the experience -- more like an observer than a participant. I wanted to feel this baby being born, and realized that feeling pain was a part of that. I wasn't looking forward to the painful side of things, but, since I would have my husband's help and the guidance of a doula, I decided the benefits of a medication-free birth would make it a positive experience.
At one time or another, I think I had almost every labor symptom there is -- unfortunately, they happened one-by-one over the course of three weeks and didn't result in a baby until the very end.
At 37 weeks to the day, I went for an ultrasound because my fundal height was measuring 3 or so weeks ahead of dates. The baby looked healthy, and a bit ahead of schedule -- they also estimated his current weight at 9 pounds, give or take.
The next night, I started to feel some hearty Braxton Hicks. Nothing painful or regular, but there was a lot of uterine activity. The next day at my weekly prenatal appointment, the doctor said I was 2-3 centimeters dilated. That was a real surprise, since I was completely closed at the appointment the previous week, and also since I'd never been that dilated before labor with my other two children. So I decided, all things considered, this baby was coming soon!
So began the mind games. I knew better, but couldn't help myself -- I was ready to have this baby. With every symptom thereafter, I wondered, "Is this the beginning?" Over the next three (very long) weeks, I had several more Braxton Hicks episodes, started losing my mucus plug, had some backache, weight loss, energy spurts as well as periods of fatigue. At my 39 week appointment, I was dilated to 4 centimeters, and, right around that time, had some bloody show. But still no baby.
On the night of July 22 -- one day after my due date -- I again had a few hours of strong Braxton Hicks -- they had been growing progressively stronger over the past few days. There was also a little bit more bloody show, which got me excited. Still, I decided just to go to sleep -- knowing I wouldn't sleep through childbirth.
At 12:11 am on July 23, I woke up with a "real" contraction. When the second one hit a few minutes later (I wasn't timing them) and I had a lot of bloody show, I started to panic -- not about the birth, but about who would take care of my daughters. The day before, my mom, who was supposed to be on call to watch the kids, hurt her back and couldn't drive. I called my dad (who lived an hour and a half away) and asked him to come down, then called my doula and told her to be on alert. I woke up my husband, then took a shower and put in my lenses, all the while having contractions.
About ten or fifteen minutes later, I realized this labor was really moving along, even though I didn't have a clock available with a second hand so I didn't bother timing. At that point, I told my husband to hurry and I called the doula again and told her I needed her. I also realized we were going to have to wake up the neighbors and ask if the kids could go over there. This really stressed me out, because I knew my three year old would freak out when she woke up at a strange house with people she didn't know too well. While I was stressing about all this (about 1am), I decided the contractions were getting really heavy and I should call the doctor for some advice. She came on the line just as a contraction hit, and I couldn't even speak but just burst into tears -- it hurt and I was so tense I couldn't even relax through the pain. I handed the phone to my husband, and the doctor told him that we should go to the hospital. I called the doula back and told her to skip coming to the house and just to meet us at the hospital instead. Right around then, our wonderful neighbors came over -- they said they would watch the kids here, which made me feel a lot better.
I pretty much dragged my husband out the door as soon as the neighbors
arrived. I still hadn't timed any contractions, but was really feeling
terrible and was just pretty much acting on auto-pilot.
We left just about an hour after labor started, which sounds way too early when you think about what they always tell you in childbirth classes and at the doctor's office. Still, I didn't even think about that at the time -- I was just happy to be on my way to the hospital and glad that at 1am, the roads were clear. I was coherent enough to have brought along a towel to sit on -- just in case my water broke -- and even told my husband that he could drive a little faster than normal, but not to run any red lights!
We got to the hospital finally (really only took about 10 minutes). The contractions seemed constant and I desperately needed to pee with every one (I guess the baby was pushing hard on my bladder). We parked about 30 yards from the entrance, and it seemed like a mile. I managed to walk across the parking lot, in the door, up the elevator and then we were met by a locked door. I just about screamed as I held onto it through another contraction, while my husband rang the buzzer and got them to unlock the door. I waddled down the hall, where we were met by a nurse, who, luckily, led us to the closest room. I went to change and to visit the bathroom and was really getting miserable and grumpy.
A few minutes later, I hoisted myself on the bed because the nurse wanted to check my progress -- I understood the need, but insisted on waiting until after a contraction. (As a side note, lying down on the bed through a contraction was much more painful than standing up.) While one nurse set up my IV (I tested positive for Group B Strep and needed antibiotics), I finally let the first nurse check me. I remember the atmosphere in the room changed pretty dramatically as she called out that I was complete and my membranes were bulging. I was really surprised to hear that I was fully dilated -- I must have entered transition just as we left home.
Of the next few minutes, I don't remember a lot except that the contractions seemed constant. My eyes were closed almost the whole time. I surprised myself with how easily I turned down an epidural, but did get a small dose of Stadol added to my IV -- the results of which I didn't feel. During this really difficult time, I held both my husband's hands, and pretty much snapped at him every time he moved even the slightest bit. He was great, even though I remember barking out orders if my arms felt stretched too far or if he got too close to my belly, "Move back! No, too much! Move forward one inch!" At some point, I remembered the lavender essential oil the doula had and asked her for it -- she waved the open bottle in from of me, and the aroma helped me through several contractions.
Usually, I am completely silent through pain, but for a short time there, I just couldn't get a handle on the contractions and was yelling and moaning and whimpering. Before I knew it, I felt a slight urge to push. Very soon thereafter, I felt a major urge to push. Actually, calling it an "urge" is way too subtle a word: it was an absolutely undeniable force, the strongest thing I have ever felt in my life -- like my whole body was one muscle, pushing.
I gave in with that push, and my bag of waters pretty much exploded everywhere. The tension in the room increased again as they told me there was meconium in the water -- a sign of fetal distress. My doula arrived around this point and talked gently to me -- I have no recollection of what she said, but I listened and it helped. The next time I had a pushing contraction, they told me over and over again, "Don't push! Your baby needs you not to push yet!" Basically, they needed to get the neonatal specialists in the room to take care of him after he was born, due to the stress and meconium. Trying not to push was almost impossible and went completely against what my body wanted to do, but I somehow managed to pant and blew my way thorough.
The doctor came in about this time, and the next thing I knew, they were telling me I MUST push, and how, and now! They were saying, "You need to get this baby out now," and "Your baby needs you to push now!" Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but at least I could push finally.
I didn't have much of a problem pushing, except for arguing a bit with the doctor and nurses for making me put my legs up high in stirrups. I felt like I was pushing uphill, and had nothing to push off against. Still, I assumed the position, and with each contraction, pushed as much as I could. It probably took two contractions before I had his head out, complete with a loop of umbilical cord around his neck. (My husband told me later he could not believe how big his head looked -- and that it looked way too huge to have come out of me.) With a few sets of pushes during the next contraction -- and growing urgency in the room -- I pushed him the rest of the way out. He was born at 1:48am, which was 28 minutes after our arrival at the hospital, and one hour and 37 minutes after my first contraction.
Because the baby had been in distress, they suctioned him at the end of the bed, hurriedly cut the cord, and took him over to the warmer where several people were waiting. I had long hoped that he would be lifted onto my chest and that my husband could cut the cord, but with their obvious concern for his well-being, I didn't argue.
As we planned in advance, my husband was to stay with the baby, so he went with him to the warmer and watched and comforted him as they suctioned his lungs and stomach. The baby didn't cry until that point -- it was nice to hear him at last. (Despite the medical concerns, his Apgars were 8 and 9.) I realized that nobody had confirmed the gender, though my 20-week ultrasound said it was a boy. I asked, "Is he still a boy?" He was, indeed.
After they took care of the more urgent issues, they weighed our son. When they first called out the weight from the other side of the room, I thought I'd misheard it, and asked my husband to come closer to me to tell me again. The answer was the same: 11 pounds, 7-1/2 ounces. I was shocked. He was 22 inches long and had a 15" head circumference (and his head didn't mold) -- altogether, he was about as big as an average 2-3 month old. My daughters had been big -- 9 pounds, 9 ounces and 8 pounds, 15 ounces -- but this time, I expected a ten pound baby at the most.
I had torn a bit (second degree), and the doctor started stitching me up, which was annoyingly uncomfortable. They added pitocin to my IV to help my uterus to contract (and I ended up being on the pit drip for another day). The pediatrician came over and told me she needed to take the baby to the nursery to do some more work on him, but first, I got to hold him for a few minutes. He looked very blue, and had bruises on his face and some swelling. Still, he was beautiful. It was then that we gave him his name -- Kieran.
Kieran needed to stay in the intensive care nursery for a few days, and was monitored and given IV antibiotics. They were concerned about infection because of the meconium, because I only had my antibiotics for 20 minutes vs the recommended two hours, and also because his blood sugar was low. After they took him, I started to finally feel some effect of the Stadol. I felt tired, but it helped as I delivered and looked at the placenta (which was a real relief), finished being stitched, my uterus was massaged (ouch) and, after a wobbly and unsuccessful trip to the bathroom, was catheterized. I guess it took about three hours for all that to happen and to get cleaned up and for me to stop bleeding enough to be moved. While I waited, I spent a few minutes spreading the word by phone. My wonderful doula, Holly, stayed with me this whole time and was wonderfully supportive.
As soon as I got moved into my postpartum room, I was allowed to see Kieran. I couldn't walk really at all, so was taken in by wheelchair to the nursery. It was really hard to see him there, on a warming table, holding my husband's hand. Our baby looked so vulnerable, despite the fact that he, the largest baby born at the hospital so far this year, was in the nursery alongside preemies. We felt very lucky that he seemed very healthy, and was doing well enough that I was finally was able to nurse him. I visited him every 2-3 hours, and after 12 hours, he was allowed to come visit me in my room and to meet his sisters (see photo).
Two days later, the cultures came back fine -- he didn't have an infection and could come home. He was very healthy and looked good -- the only signs of his somewhat traumatic entrance was the fact that the visible whites of his eyes were blood red from the pressure of the birth, and his face was still swollen and a bit bruised. I had been in the hospital these two days as well. My recovery was pretty slow -- I couldn't really walk at for a couple of days, and it felt like I really bruised some bones and/or stretched some ligaments inside my pelvis.
His sisters were excited to have the new baby home, and adjusted really well to the little person who makes funny noises and pees on mom and dad with almost every diaper change. Apart from wanting to eat all the time, Kieran has been a very mellow, sweet and easy baby -- which I predicted from his actions in utero. We look forward to getting to know him better, and eagerly await his first smiles!
Kieran's stats update: 1 month = 16 pounds, 9 ounces; 2 months = 19 pounds, 10 ounces; 3 months = 21 pounds, 14 ounces; 4 months = 23 pounds, 8 ounces. Things slowed after that. ;-) (Photo just to the right here: at age 10 months; above left: 5-1/2 years; black & white: 3 months)