Charlie’s birth story actually began on Monday, November 7th, around 4 am. I had been having false labor for a week or so – feeling what I thought were contractions, but wasn’t really sure being that this was my first baby. But, I should have known these pains were different, considering I couldn’t sleep through them. And, I can sleep through just about anything (including, at times, a crying baby – but more on that another day.)
So, I got myself out of bed at 4 am, in the dark, before our dogs would even get out of bed. I didn’t really feel that “nesting” urge that lots of women tend to get before labor…but that’s maybe because I always feel the urge to nest and clean our house. So, to occupy the time, I cleaned. Tristan got up and ready for work, and left at his usual time (around 8). By then, I was a little sleepy so I went ahead and took a cat nap on the couch. I was back up and at it by around 10 am and I wasn’t really feeling the contractions very strongly anymore. So, I decided to try some more of the old wives tales that “help” induce labor.
You may know, my labor was pretty much a piece of cake from day one. I never got sick during the first trimester… the worst of it was a little nausea and extreme tiredness, plus some serious heartburn during the 3rd trimester. I only gained a total of 18 pounds, never had high blood pressure or protein. I was pretty lucky. Until I hit the 34 week mark, that is. I went into the doctor because I was having some pain in my upper right side, just below my ribs. Dr. Google told me that this pain could be gallbladder related, which is common during pregnancy, so I mentioned it to my doctor at my regular appointment. This pain would come and go, but it would be so intense that I couldn’t sit for long periods of time and I’d have to lay down after I’d eat to help lessen the discomfort. So, my doctor decided to run some blood tests to check my gallbladder and liver.
Long story short, it turns out my gallbladder and liver were fine, but my blood platelets were not. Normal amounts of blood platelets range from 150-450. Mine started in pregnancy at 180, and steadily dropped to about 120 by the time I gave birth. This is not a life threatening condition normally, but the problem is that low platelets increase your risk for clotting problems (a big problem when giving birth!) Plus, if platelets get too low (under 100) you cannot have an epidural, and in the event of a c-section you need to go under general anesthesia. (Yikes!) Low platelets, combined with my side pain, plus my history of ITP when I was a kid made me a bit higher risk.
Due to this “condition”, which landed me in labor and delivery for monitoring at 34 weeks and required weekly blood tests (yes, I felt like a human pin cushion!) for the rest of my pregnancy, my doctor decided she would not let me stay pregnant after my due date (11/9). It was deliver by then, or induction. But, knowing that inductions are 50% more likely to end in c-sections – I was determined to go on my own before it got to that point.
So, back to Monday, 10 am. I decided it would be a good idea to rake our back yard. We have massive pine trees that shed pine needles year round. It’s annoying, and ugly, and will kill the grass we’ve been trying to get growing back there. So, 9 months pregnant me decided it was time to rake before the snow falls.
SIDE NOTE: One might ask “Don’t you live in a condo? Why do you have anything to rake anything?? You pay $200 dues every month for that!” Answer – our crappy landscaper apparently don’t rake pine needles like they do leaves during spring clean up…plus, they half ass everything and I don’t even think they do anything in our back yards. But that’s all I’ll say about that, because I could complain about condo living all day.
With a freshly raked back yard, I decided my next task would be to walk around the neighborhood. As I walked what I call the “Big Loop” around the block (Big meaning more than half a mile, but certainly less than a mile, because I’m lazy) my contractions started to come back – and a little more strong. As I finished the loop, it felt like baby was definitely lower in my pelvis. One might ask how you can tell the baby is lower…well, when you’ve been carrying around a bowling ball in your uterus for 9 months you kind of notice when the bowling ball starts trying to fall out.
So what next? “Let’s go to Wal-mart!” was my bright idea, because what else do you do in early labor beside go to Wal-mart? It was there that I got a few last minute baby things, and got some goodies to make the Maine Med nurses a Thank You Basket to give them when we checked in. (Bribery at its finest!) A couple of stops later, and the pressure on my bladder was telling me it was time to get home.
I got home, made up the Thank You Basket, and by 4 pm I was having steady, time-able contractions. I downloaded a handy contraction timer iPhone app (99 cents, well worth it!) and started bouncing on my birthing ball (really an exercise ball, but we all know it will never be used for exercise). Contractions were about 7 minutes apart.
Tristan got home at his usual 5:45 pm, greeted by me bouncing saying “I’m having contractions!” The look on his face was one of excitement, combined with “oh shit, that baby might really come out.” And so we sat and watched TV and timed contractions for our last night as non-parents.
By 9pm, my contractions were 5 minutes apart. But, my doctor had said not to call until they were “5 minutes apart, lasting for a minute each, and they’ve been that way for an hour – and you can’t walk or talk through them.” This is what us pregnant people know as “5-1-1″… well, “5-1-1” is a shitty rule, because “5-1-1” rarely happens that way. My contractions were 5 minutes apart for almost 2 hours, but they only lasted for about 45 seconds. At no point in time while I was home were they painful enough not to talk or walk through. I kept saying to Tristan “I don’t think this is real, because it doesn’t hurt that bad. This is really easy if this is labor.” This was a phrase I would soon learn to regret saying.
By 9:30 pm, my contractions were 3 minutes apart. We kept hemming and hawing about calling the doctor’s office. I didn’t want to go in to the hospital, only to be sent home in false labor. But, once they were 3 minutes Tristan’s face told me he was ready to call. (Tris doesn’t stress about anything…he wasn’t stressed yet, but this was probably the closest I’d seen at this point in our 5 years together.) We called, and the on-call doctor was basically like “Go ahead in to L&D if you want.” (If I want – wait, aren’t you the trained professional? Shouldn’t you tell me more definitively what to do here lady??!!) So, in we went.
Our parents and families were “on call” by this point. Except for Barry and Ian, who didn’t know they were on call because they were up at the camp in Brownfield with no cell service… We got to Maine Med by 10 pm, checked in to Triage, hooked up to the monitors, and I was 4 cm dilated. This was really happening – I was being admitted.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was when the resident came in and asked me how I felt about them helping to move my labor along, and if I felt comfortable with them breaking my water. I told her that was probably fine, but I didn’t want any drugs (like Pitocin). She walked out of the room, and I started dialing my mom to tell her I was for sure going to have the baby and “woosh”… I handed the phone to Tristan and said “Uhhh… I think my water broke.” My mom answered the phone, and Tristan just said “Uhh…I will call you back, Michelle’s water just broke” and hung up.
Your water breaking is a weird feeling when it happens on its own. It’s like, did I just pee? When did I become incontinent? Wait, there is no way that I just pee’d, because if I did then I am still peeing…
So, after they took my blood again to check my platelets and other labor-y things, off we went from Triage to L&D. It was about 11 pm. Mom and Rick arrived around midnight, followed by Lisa shortly thereafter. (Barry and Ian were still in oblivion up in Brownfield.) Apparently, a lot of people progress pretty quickly after the water breaks…so a lot of the nurses and doctors and family thought maybe we’d be having a baby soon. Also apparently, this assumption absolutely did not apply to me.
I laid there in L&D for a few hours, and we all chatted. Things were lovely. I continued saying the whole “this really isn’t that bad” mantra. (Jinx, jinx, double jinx.) Well, by about 3 am, it started to get that bad. I started having intense contractions, one on top of the other. I knew they were one on top of the other because I could feel them, but Rick let me know every once in a while by “reading” the monitor and letting me know the play by play. This is also known as being super helpful.
So, I called the nurse and we decided to check and see where I was at. I knew that if I wasn’t at least close to 8 or 9 cm, I might need something for the pain. My goal was to go natural, but I had no intention of being a martyr – if it hurt like a motha, I would go for the epidural. Lo and behold, it had been 4 hours and I was only at 5 cm. Holy mother of god, I was only half way. So, after considering that it was 3 am, I had been up for almost 24 hours already, I had god knows how long to go, and I was only 5 cm, I decided to go for some Nubain to help me sleep. (Nubain is an IV med – narcotic – that takes the edge of the contractions. I still felt them, but was able to try to rest through them.) Nubain wears off in an hour and you can receive a dose every 2 hours, but the more doses you receive the less effective it is. I opted for a second dose around 5 am because I was still, you guessed it, 5 cm.
The Nubain started to wear off around 7 am. By then, Barry and Ian had been summoned from the deep Maine woods. My sister had stopped by after her shift. So, I had 14 eyeballs watching me through each contraction. This wasn’t really our birth plan… Tristan and I took 6 weeks of hypnobirthing in an effort to help me get through it all naturally. I only wanted him and my mother in the delivery room. It seems we must have forgotten to share this information with everyone. But, in early labor, it’s so uneventful it didn’t really matter to me that there were lots of people in the room. However, when you hit active labor it’s a whole different story. I wanted to scream “Okay, get the f*ck out people”…but at the same time, I wanted everyone to experience the labor, too. After all, he was the first grandchild, nephew, etc.
At some point, there was a shift change and my new nurse came in. Lori, who ended up being my life saver, introduced herself. She was very….chipper. Given her chipper-ness, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out – because I was not feeling very chipper. She wrote our two names up on the board: Charles Tristan for a boy and Paige Elizabeth for a girl. We did a poll – everyone weighed in and boy was definitely winning. I don’t think anyone actually asked me for my vote though – N.B.D., I was just the one in labor. Lori left the room, and we continued laboring on as a group.
By this point, my contractions were serious business. Also serious business – sharing iPhone apps. Things became a bit fuzzy for me at this point, because it felt like everyone was carrying on and laughing and having fun, and I was laying there suffering. Reason #158 why labor is not a spectator sport. I knew it was time to do something when Tristan whipped out his “Bro-stache” app…I was losing him to the crowd, and if he was going to make it out of this labor alive, I needed to do something. I decided that if this was how my labor was going to be, I wasn’t going to suffer with everyone watching me. I buzzed the nurse – “Yes, I need to talk to someone about an epidural.”
Lori swooped in the room, along with nursing student Alex (Yes, I gave permission for students to be there throughout…it didn’t bother me). She asked if I had to relieve myself and followed me to the bathroom… this, I later realized was code for “do you want the audience to leave?”
She asked, “Do you want to go in the tub?”
“Yeeesssss,” I said.
She went out and told everyone that it was a “great time to get breakfast”…and into the tub I went. It was just Tristan and I in the room at that point, with him giving me water while I just laid in the tub. A few of the nurses and residents came in and out of the room, but I was in the zone — I think this was where my hypnobirthing techniques kicked in. I stayed there for an hour, and went from 5 to 8 cm. I only got out because I was cold… in hindsight, I told Tristan that the next time we do this I’m laboring in the tub the whole time. I barely felt the contractions, it was awesome.
After getting out of the tub, it was absolutely not comfortable to lay in the bed. I felt like I must have been having back labor, because my contractions were all in my back. I never mentioned it, because I didn’t know how the hell it was supposed to feel. (I later asked Lori if I was in back labor, and she said “I don’t think so, because you never said your back hurt.” This is me saying, for the record, my back f*cking hurt.)
I paced back and forth in the room, bent over the bed, kneeled over the couch. I used a technique I learned in my prenatal yoga class, and it really helped – I swayed my hips while “chanting” a low vowel sound. “Oooooohhhhh.” This is called vocal toning. This went on for a little while… then I think I hit transition. Transition, for me, was marked by violently throwing up, worse than the worst flu or hang over that ever existed. I’m pretty sure I pulled a jaw muscle during this event. It was not cute.
Tristan called the nurses, and they came in and gave me a shot of anti-nausea meds. They had been giving me tums earlier, because I had been nauseous for a while. But, I knew I needed something more serious, because there was no way I could continue to throw up and have contractions and push a bowling ball out of my who-ha. Ain’t happenin’. They re-checked me and I think I was at 9 cm.
I have no idea what time it was at this point, but I do remember the doctor asking me who “green shirt” was. It was my mumma, who had come to check on me just as puke-fest 2011 was happening. I told the doctor, that was my mom and I wanted her to come in. She and Lisa came in, and I went back to my “Crouching Tiger/Hidden Baby” position doing my vocal toning. Tristan started to fall asleep at one point, clearly I yelled at him. Poor guy… I didn’t want him to touch me throughout the whole labor, and I think he felt a little of that “what the hell do I do?” thing that the man feels. I probably should have let him get a cat nap in, but the contraction just didn’t want him to have any type of nap if I couldn’t have a nap.
Then next stage was the “I can’t do this anymore” stage…which I think every woman says they hit at the point where you’re almost done. But, when it’s happening you don’t feel like it’s ever going to be done. I told Tristan, at this point, had there been an open window I probably would have asked him to just let me jump out of it to get rid of the pain. Yikes!
Tristan called Lori again, who told me to start grunting to help move the baby down. They re-checked me – I was 9 and a half cm. Seriously! Half a centimeter – couldn’t I just freaking push already? Apparently not, because if you push too soon, your cervix will swell up and it will get all emergent up in there. So, the doctor tried to manually stretch my cervix to 10 during my next contraction… they rechecked – 9 and three quarter cm – ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
They had me get into the shower at this point, which kind of helped. Tristan fed me ice chips, while I grunted my way through the contractions. I got to the point where I mentally said “Eff this grunting, I’m pushing.” I pushed in secret towards the end there…oopsie!
I got out of the shower after about 30 minutes-ish (also known as a lifetime to a woman in labor). If you’ve ever given labor before, you know that all modesty goes out the window… I think at this point I was trying to just walk around in my birthday suit. Lori kept trying to cover me with a blanket, but I was so hot and in so much pain, I could have cared less that the good-looking nursing student saw my naked ass.
I think at this point, I was just about 10 cm, so they let me really start pushing. This was after I think I yelled “Get this baby outta me!” At least, it felt like I was yelling, but they later told me I didn’t really yell at any point. Except at Tristan when he fell asleep. So, Tristan held one leg while Alex the nursing student held the other. Tristan fed me ice chips while Alex put cold cloths on my head. Pushing was not as bad as I dreaded because it actually gives you something to DO with the pain. It definitely gave me some relief.
I pushed for just over an hour. The baby’s head kept coming down, then going back in. At one point, the doctor told me to reach down and feel the head… I felt it and was like “WTF, all this work and that’s it!!!” It was just barely at the edge starting to come out. But, a few pushes later, and I could really feel that his head was almost out. That was the coolest thing to feel, and it gave me the added energy to keep pushing – I was going to meet my baby!!!
Women talk about the “ring of fire” when the baby is crowning, but I really didn’t feel much of that. It felt like a little burn, but I think because he came out so slowly, he gave my body time to accommodate him. The nurses kept saying “One more push, he’ll be out in one more push.” Note to nurses, you probably shouldn’t say that if it’s not going to be the next push. Because for me, they said that about 4 times and he wasn’t out after the next push. Liar Liartons.
But finally on November 8, 2011 at 3:42 pm, with one last big push, Charles Tristan entered the world – with force! The doctor was trying to hold him so that Tristan and I could see if it was a boy or girl first. (Little did she know that I couldn’t see her face, let alone a baby’s genitals, without my glasses…plus, both of my eyes were swollen from pushing as I had given myself two black eyes and a blown blood vessel. But, it was a nice gesture on her part.) Charlie came out with such zest that – let’s just say she fumbled him a little. They laid him on my stomach and Tristan lifted his leg to see and share– “It’s a boy!!!”
Charlie barely made a cry, just a few wimpers, which made my mom nervous. I didn’t really notice, because I was just so glad he was out! But he was totally alert, looking all around the room. He got an 8/9 apgar, and the nurses said he was perfect. She said she believed that was a product of an epidural free labor, but I think we just make perfect babies!
So it was over. The pain stopped…the memory of the pain didn’t even matter. It actually happened, I had my baby… I was a mom and Tristan was a dad. It was all worth it. Tristan cut the cord after it stopped pulsing. I delivered the placenta, which I barely remember, and they cleaned me up. I had very little damage and didn’t need any stitches. They briefly took him to trim his umbilical cord, clean him off a bit (he had barely any vernix on him), get his weight/height and do his little footprints and all that jazz, and then it was back on Momma. The family all got to come back in and see him, albeit briefly because Maine Med really promotes skin-to-skin with mom and baby directly after birth. They all headed home to get sleep, and we hung out there until about 9pm, when they brought us up to the recovery room.
So, my labor was about 36 hours from start to finish, but about 16 hours from the time I went into the hospital to when he was born. Giving birth was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it gave me the best reward anyone could ask for. I would go through it all again for this amazing little guy…he has given me the best gift in the world – he made me a Mom!