29 September 2014

Elliott's Birth Story

This is a long and personal post, describing the labor and delivery of our sweet Elliott. If you'd rather not know the details, now is a good time to stop reading. 

The story of Elliott’s birth begins the day before his due date, Wednesday, August 21st. For most of the day, I had irregular but noticeable early labor contractions and back pain. They disappeared by the end of the day, but I was exhausted from mentally dealing with the contractions and both discouraged and hopeful that the contractions had at least been productive in moving toward actual labor.

On Elliott’s due date, I woke up around 4am with contractions that felt like early labor. Yes! They were strong enough to really get my attention and occasionally need to count through them. After lying in bed for a while, I moved downstairs where I felt like I had good control of the approaching contractions while sitting on the yoga ball and gently bouncing through them. I started timing them, and they were coming regularly. I woke up George to tell him what was going on and suggest that we make arrangements to get Madeleine to our friends who would be watching her during my labor. I had an appointment with the midwives first thing, and I thought it’d be best to get her settled before the appointment so that we wouldn’t have to scramble in case something happened at the appointment. With Madeleine settled, George and I were off to the midwives appointment.

At my appointment, midwife Shana was able to see that the baby was looking toward my hip, which may have been the reason for the back pain the previous day. She suggested that I do lunges to the right and lay on my right side to try to get him to shift. Based on her exam and my symptoms, she felt that real labor was possible that day. Though disappointed that my dilation hadn’t progressed farther, I felt hopeful that we were going to meet our baby soon.

When George and I got home, the contractions started to slow down. I was really disappointed and frustrated because I was ready to have this baby (and very excited at the possibility of having two babies born on their due dates!). I decided that I needed to move around to try to get things going again, so George and I dug in and cleaned the house. As I started moving and felt more at peace, the contractions got into a good pattern. When I stopped for lunch, they slowed dramatically. When I got going again, they picked up again. And so it went until dinner time approached. I declared that I was never going to have the baby, and George went to pick up Madeleine. We had a low-key evening, and I went to bed around 10pm wondering if Elliott would ever make his appearance.

At 1:04am, as I got up to use the bathroom, I was jolted by a huge contraction. Oh! I remember these! Labor! I tried to sleep through this round of contractions, but it was soon obvious that sleeping was not in the cards. I started timing the contractions, which soon intensified to the point that I could not lay in bed through them, and I called the on-call midwife, Heather, when they had been coming every 5 to 7 minutes for an hour. She suggested that I keep laboring at home and timing them until they were 3 to 5 minutes apart and then call again. During most contractions, I would get into a half-dog at the wall position and sway my hips from side to side. When I felt ambitious, I would squat and bounce, as if to encourage the baby to move down, during contractions. After talking to Heather, I woke George to start getting things ready and making arrangements for Madeleine’s care. As the contractions started averaging five minutes apart, I called Heather again, and we agreed that I should come to the hospital, about an 8-minute drive away.

One contraction later, we were at the hospital triage, where we were monitored for about an hour. The contractions were continuing to build in intensity but not getting much closer together or much longer, and my dilation was not progressing beyond 2cm. Heather told me that I could either walk for an hour to see if I would progress or get a shot of morphine to take the edge off the contractions and allow me to go home and get some sleep in preparation for labor. Having spent hours (and hours and hours) walking to try to progress Madeleine’s labor, all to no avail, I wasn’t keen on taking the same approach again. I found comfort in Heather’s comment that she felt the morphine was the best option as labor was imminent and energy sacred. I refused to be discouraged by the facts that this labor was starting out so similarly to my long labor with Madeleine and that my plan for a completely unmedicated birth was already being derailed. I opted for the shot and started feeling groggy almost instantly.

George drove me home quickly to minimize the contractions I had to experience in the car, then walked me to our bed and tucked me in. Although I could feel the peak of each contraction, I hardly noticed that I was waking briefly every few minutes because I was almost instantly back to sleep. A few hours later, around 8:30am, I was only slightly aware that I was having a particularly strong contraction when – POP – I could both hear and feel my water burst. I woke George to call the midwives, as we had been instructed. By this time, Jenny was the on-call midwife, and she told George that we should head to the hospital soon because labor was likely to progress quickly now that my water had broken and I’d already had a good pattern of contractions. In my groggy state, I pleaded for another 30 minutes of sleep. In the middle of the next contraction, I yelled out “change of plans!” We needed to get to the hospital now because these contractions were going to a whole new level of intensity.

A contraction or two later, and I was propped outside the car having one last contraction at home before collapsing into the passenger’s seat and insisting that we “goooooo!” As we were pulling out of the garage, I asked George what was beeping in the car, and he informed me that the trunk of the car wasn’t completely closed. I was simultaneously freaking out about the possibility of our hospital bag flying out of the back of the car and totally oblivious that anything could possibly go wrong. One contraction and a long red light later, we were back at the hospital. I immediately poured out of the car and made my way to the check-in desk where Jenny was waiting for me. She would remain with George and me until after Elliott was born. I had two or three contractions right there in the middle of the hospital as people bustled around about me. I could feel their stares but couldn’t care less. Jenny encouraged me to keep swaying my hips and squatting like I had been doing, and I knew we were in great hands. The rest of the labor was a blur. I kept my eyes closed for the vast majority of the time, focused inward on dealing with each contraction and moving toward holding our sweet Elliott.  

Once checked in, we walked to triage, where I continued to come in and out of the morphine fog. While I could fully deal with my contractions, the narcotics allowed me to totally relax and even doze in between their rushes. After Jenny checked me, she told me that I was dilated to 7cm and that our baby has hair!  Seven centimeters! Hair! We’re going to have a baby!

Eventually, Jenny suggested that we walk to my room, and the walking really moved the contractions forward. They were intense and close together, and I did an extreme amount of groaning and swaying with each one. By the time that we got to the room, I was 9cm dilated and felt comfortable laboring on the toilet. George set up my music – a mix of Norah Jones and Steve Gold (who my yoga instructor played a lot during this pregnancy) – and it allowed me to really feel comfortable. Without consciously making the decision, I started to push. That’s when Jenny and George stripped my clothes off and encouraged me to move to the birthing stool.

I must have been complete at that point because the contractions changed to intense pressure, which encouraged me to push. Just over 10 minutes later, and my beautiful, plump, purple, bruised Elliott was handed to me. Like his sister, he had a short cord, and he’d gotten hung up on it while his shoulder passed through the birth canal. In no time, he was crying and turning red with circulation. What a fast ride he’d endured! He was born at 11:15am, less than three hours from when I’d last looked at the clock after my water broke.

In case you're interested in the comparison, this is Madeleine's birth story.


Janie said...

.....and what a joy he is!!!! Tough ride but what reward! Welcome, baby Elliott.

smacris said...

What a beautiful story!!! I'm so thrilled you had such a positive experience this time. :)