Judging by the delay since my last entry, you might be able to guess what happened in my world recently. You betcha: I had me a baby.
Peanut was 20 days early, but she was no runt — 7 pounds 1.5 ounces (just 1.5 ounces bigger than me when I was born!) and 21-1/4 inches long.
I’ve been told by many people that my labor and delivery story is pretty amazing. I feel sheepish to have been so lucky. But I’ll share my little story with you. Here’s how it all went down.
In my last entry I explained that at my 36-week appointment, I was already dilated to 4cm and almost completely effaced. Doctor Awesome said she’d be surprised if I lasted another week. We went home excited and expecting Baby soon.
A week passed. On Tuesday the 7th, it was time for my 37-week appointment. I went to work that day, feeling completely normal, and left for the doctor’s office at 10:30am, leaving my computer and Pandora station running. After all, I’d be right back…right? (*Foreshadowing!*)
Doctor Awesome was on an ill-timed vacation, and we’d be seeing Doctor Fill-In. She gloved and jellied up and reached in to check things out. The look on her face – or rather, the very quick change in her facial expression – was priceless. Her eyes widened as she felt around. “You’re six centimeters, completely effaced, and with a very large bulging bag of waters,” she said, shaking her head incredulously. “Have you been having contractions?”
I shrugged. “Not that I know of.”
She was unconvinced. “No pains down low, where your entire belly gets tight?”
Me: “Nope, nothing like that.”
“Have you been seeing a lot of watery clear fluid?” Doctor Fill-In inquired, reaching into a drawer and removing a giant Q-tip.
“I’m not sure. There’s been a lot of clear stuff,” I answered uncertainly. “But I can’t tell if it’s just really watery snot or actual fluid.“
She explained that she would swab some of the fluid in my vagina (yes, I said vagina, sorry… there’s no better word for it) and check if it was amniotic fluid.
I looked at my husband and rolled my eyes. I’d know if my water had broken. She took the swab and left the room, returning a few minutes later. “There are two tests for amniotic fluid; it passed one and the other was inconclusive. But that’s enough for me to send you upstairs to Labor & Delivery.”
“Seriously?” I was not expecting to walk into L&D until I was actually in labor, and that was definitely not the case.
“Yes. They’ll watch you for a few hours, and they might send you home, but I have a feeling you’ll be staying and having a baby.” Doctor Fill-in smiled, but I was not on board with this theory.
She gave us a form to take upstairs; I got dressed and dialed the office to let my boss know I’d be a few hours late getting back. “I’ll be booted out in a few hours. Just watch,” I told her.
We walked up to L&D, giggling about what a waste of time this was going to be. My husband was bummed that his gym trip was delayed; he’d come to the doctor’s office in his scrubby gym clothes.
They led me to a delivery room and directed me into a hospital gown. (At my hospital, you labor and deliver in a roomy suite with a whirlpool tub, rocker, pull-out sofa, TV with Blu-ray, and the typical accouterments needed to deliver a critter, like oxygen and whatnot. It’s a sweet setup.) Nurse Rachel wrapped two elastic straps around my belly: one to measure contractions and a second to monitor the baby. She laughed when the first sensor immediately started registering contractions. “You don’t feel that?” she asked me.
“Feel what?” I asked, genuinely puzzled. Rachel shook her head in disbelief.
My husband turned on the Olympics and we proceeded to veg out watching women’s volleyball. A resident doc came in to check my cervix and get another sample. She left to test it and returned a few minutes later. Before I could ask the results, she happily blurted out, “We’re going to have a baby today!”
I tried to wrap my head around her proclamation. She explained that the fluid had tested positive, and when she checked my cervix she could see the hair on Baby’s head. (Freaky.)
The resident explained that my water had probably broken high on the uterus, but the bottom of the bag was still intact (and bulging through the cervix). Now that my bag of waters was compromised, they’d allow no more than 18 hours to pass, because of the risk of infection. If I didn’t progress on my own, they’d break the bag and give me a kick of Pitocin to jump-start labor.
In the meantime, I should just relax in bed, eating popsicles, drinking Sprite, and watching TV. I didn’t quite believe it yet, but I called my boss and told her what was happening. A coworker graciously turned on my out-of-office reply and shut down my computer for me, and my husband headed home to get our suitcases and arrange care for the dog. He returned an hour later, suitcases in tow and a stack of movies for what we believed would be a long, boring wait until they gave me Pitocin. It was 1pm.
Over the course of the afternoon, we watched Point Break, strolled around the 6th floor, and watched more Olympics (thank God we weren’t stuck with Dr. Phil and Real Housewives; I was lucky enough to be in labor during the one time every two years that daytime TV is actually interesting).
At 4pm, they checked me again. The resident’s face registered what was beginning to be a familiar look – shock. “You’re 8 centimeters,” she said incredulously. “Have you felt any pain?”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Not a thing. The only way I know I’m having a contraction is by watching the numbers on the screen there,” I gestured to the monitors. I was eight-tenths of the way to the finish line, and with absolutely no pain.
This. Was. Awesome.
At 8:15pm, we met the new shift of doctors and a new head resident, Doctor Ponytail, who was taking the lead on my case. My reputation had preceded me, and this group was looking forward to meeting “Painless Labor Girl,” as the nurse corps was calling me (not without a little contempt, of course; the night nurse, Melissa, said in 11 years of nursing in L&D, she’d never had a patient who’d gotten to 8 centimeters without pain). The docs declared me the Luckiest Girl in the World.
I was introduced to Doctor Boss Lady, the only one in the group of nine wearing a white coat – everyone else was greened up in scrubs. It was clear she was the one who was really in charge.
After checking me again and seeing I’d not progressed past 8 centimeters, Dr. Ponytail decided to break the forebag (the portion of the bag of waters bulging through the cervix). She used a long plastic pokey-tool to puncture the bag and I felt a rush of warm liquid. Dr. Ponytail said she’d be back to check me in an hour.
A few minutes later, I felt something like a slight menstrual cramp. I looked at the monitor and sure enough, I was having a contraction – one I could actually feel. I told Melissa and she smiled, reminding me I could hop in the whirlpool if the pain got worse.
By 9:20pm, an hour after the bag had been broken, I was ready for the tub. The contractions were regular and starting to make me catch my breath a little. I soaked in the tub, with Melissa stopping in to monitor baby’s heart rate. After 45 minutes, I got out and dried off, climbing back into bed. The docs checked me again at 10:20pm and I’d progressed to 9 centimeters.
At this point, the contractions were getting fairly intense, and I needed to decide if I wanted an epidural. Hospital policy is “as long as you can sit still for it, you can have an epidural no matter how far dilated you are.” I debated it with my husband, and we decided that the last stretch, from 8 to 9 centimeters, hadn’t been that awful. I could stand one more hour of pain without the epidural. Then I could have a no-epidural delivery and bragging rights for life! Plus the nurse assured me if the pain was intolerable, they could give me something to take the edge off the contractions. That sounded doable.
Twenty minutes of gut-wrenchingly painful contractions later, I asked for the meds. The nurse couldn’t get the IV in, and by the time they fetched supplies for a second IV, twenty minutes (and many more contractions) had elapsed. The docs had been in to check me again and said I was basically at 10 centimeters, but still had a small anterior lip of cervix that needed to go away before I could push.
(When the doctors entered the room to check me, I was on all fours on the bed, rocking back and forth through a particularly painful contraction. I peeked under my arm and said, “I’m no longer the luckiest girl in the world! You need to rescind my Painless Labor Girl title!” They laughed and assured me that even though I was writhing in pain now, I was still damn lucky I hadn’t been in pain for the last 9 centimeters.)
Now the contractions were coming fast and furious. I breathed (and swore) through them as best I could while my husband rubbed my back. Finally, 10 minutes later, the IV went in. “Got it!” Melissa cheered. “Now I just need to grab the Fentanyl.”
“Okay, thank you. RUN, please,” I begged her. The crew laughed. The vial was just on the other side of the bed. To her credit, Melissa hustled to get it. Fentanyl was pushed as the docs were checking me a final time and declared me ready to push.
“Do you feel the urge to push?” Dr. Ponytail asked.
“I’m not sure,” I responded. “Maybe?”
Ponytail laughed. “You’d know if you did. Well, we can wait, or we can go ahead and start pushing now.” Another contraction hit as I was considering my answer. The doc added, “If you push through the contractions, they don’t hurt as much.”
I was sold. When the contraction calmed, I nodded vigorously. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
The entire room mobilized. Dr. Ponytail reached into a full-length green gown and gloved up; Morgan the med student (who would get a front row seat for this birth) got into position to assist, and an assortment of other residents and med students helped remove the bottom half of the bed to convert it into a delivery table. Dr. Boss Lady, she of the white coat, stood silently and authoritatively at the back of the melee.
“How do I do this?” I asked.
Melissa explained that when the next contraction hit, I should grab my legs and pull back, curling myself into a letter “C” over my belly. She would hold my right leg while my husband held the other. And I should push just like I was pooping.
“But then I’ll poop!” I protested.
“It’s okay. Most people do,” Melissa reassured me.
Just then, the next contraction hit and it was go time. The clock read 11:17pm.
I quickly became convinced that certain members of the team had been named official cheerleaders; when I pushed, they echoed a chorus of “Good job! That’s it!” and “That’s the push, right there!” and “You’re doing great!” As soon as the pushing set ended and I flopped back on the bed to rest, the room went eerily silent. At most 20 seconds would pass between contractions; they were right on top of each other. I’d sit up, take a breath and we’d go again.
The pushing was painful because of the contractions, but Ponytail was right; it felt better to push through them. By minute 15, I was sweating, and my husband started fanning me between contractions with a laminated flyer. I’d been pushing 20 minutes and felt like I was getting nowhere, but the chorus of cheerleaders assured me that baby was ever closer.
“I think you’re all a bunch of liars,” I said, with as much mock anger as I could muster in my drowsy state. The Fentanyl had kicked in and I was a little groggy, but it made them all laugh.
When we hit 45 minutes of pushing, I was exhausted, frustrated, and ready to give up. “She’s coming! I can see the head every time you push,” Dr. Ponytail assured me.
“Then reach up there and pull her out!” I shouted. “Please! Just go get her!”
She shook her head with a smile. “No, no. You’re doing just fine, she’s coming all on her own.”
When the clock hit midnight, my husband pointed it out between contractions. It was now August 8th, a date which also happened to be our third wedding anniversary. This made us happy, because when we’d asked hours earlier if we’d make it to midnight, so we could have an anniversary baby, the nurse said Baby would arrive long before then. But she’d held on and we would have one heck of an anniversary present!
Dr. Ponytail and the crew kept cheering me on, and I started to feel serious burning down south during pushes. The baby was getting close to crowning and I was writhing from the pain. “Ow, ow, ow, it hurts!” I shouted.
“You’ve gotta push through that pain, push through the burning,” someone instructed. One of the cheerleaders coached me to “Push through that ring of fire!” and I wished I could jump off the table and slap the offender. Ring of Fire? Seriously?
It was almost 12:15am and I was spent. The burning was extreme, the contractions were nonstop, and I was shaking from exertion. As I rested waiting for the next contraction, Doctor Boss Lady piped up from the back of the room. “Reach down. Reach down and feel your baby’s head. She’s almost here,” Boss Lady said firmly.
Eyes closed, I did as I was told. I felt a bulbous head, like a large slippery cue ball. Feeling that little head with my fingertips, I was invigorated. I mustered up a huge burst of energy.
“Alright, let’s go. NOW.” I didn’t even wait for the next contraction. I grabbed my legs and pulled back, my leg-holders scrambling to catch up. I pushed like I had never pushed before. I’m sure I made some sort of cavewoman noise, because my like-never-before push also brought on searing pain. I felt the baby coming and opened my eyes just in time to see the baby shooting out, followed by a small explosion of fluid, blood, and goop.
“You did it!” Dr. Ponytail exclaimed, holding up a purplish, screaming creature with a face that somewhat resembled a human’s. It came out crying, but it was a gurgly cry thanks to the fact it was taking its first breaths of air.
I immediately looked for the baby’s genitals, but the umbilical cord completely covered them.
“What is it?” I asked Ponytail, still panting after my giant push. But she was busy. The doctors and students all seemed to have assigned tasks, from suctioning to rubbing baby’s head, and no one was looking at me — they were all preoccupied. My question went unanswered.
I turned to my husband. “What is it?!” I asked frantically. He shrugged, eyes wide; what was he, a doctor?
I waited for what felt like an eternity, expecting someone to share the gender of my baby. Finally I shouted at the room full of people: “WHAT IS IT?!”
Someone finally understood my question and exclaimed, “Move the cord!”
A hand reached in and moved the cord to the side, and I saw a glorious sight: a beautiful little set of baby labia.
I collapsed back on the bed and sobbed. I was so relieved to be finished, and so happy that she was a girl. My instincts from Day One of my pregnancy, starting the morning of the embryo implantation, were right on. I had a girl.
They lay the purple slimy thing on my stomach, and I held her while I cried. My husband laughed and called me a crier, just like he does when we’re at the movies.
The team scrubbed at her while Melissa untied the top of my gown so baby could be skin-to-skin with me. While they cleaned her up, she kept crying, and I tried to soothe her.
While they stitched* me up, I told her the story of how she came to be – the first failed IVF cycle, our frozen cycle attempt, the “just a little bit pregnant” test results, and the “you’re going to miscarry” predictions.
Perhaps it was her baby way of compensating; we worked so hard to finally get her, she paid us back by giving me the world’s easiest labor. No matter the reason, we had a little Peanut girl to show for our hard work. And I am pretty sure I am the Luckiest Girl in the World.
*Remember that giant push? If I had it to do over again, I’d have stuck with the slow-and-steady pushes. By getting ambitious to end the delivery, I earned myself a third-degree tear, all the way through the perineum. It took them almost an hour to stitch me up, but that was partially because Dr. Boss Lady was a stickler about post-delivery repair. It was her promise that no Mom who ever delivered under her tutelage should ever fart (unintentionally) in public. There does exist such a thing as a fourth-degree tear, up to and through the rectum. Thank goodness I didn’t have one of those!