Birth Story

Disclaimer: Below is the story of my perception of Calvin’s birth. Labor is a very confusing time so what I remember and what actually happened may not be the same thing. In addition, you may learn more than you ever really wanted to know about me in which case you probably shouldn’t continue reading :-)

Calvin was born on March 26, 2009 at 10:02 PM. He was 8 lbs 15 oz and measured 21 inches long. Those facts are very easy to relate. However, getting to this point was more complicated than I expected.

Originally, both Jaeger and I were astonished by how my pregnancy proceeded right on schedule. However, my by-the-book pregnancy abruptly changed on January 31 when I went into preterm labor. Since then it has been a roller coaster ride alternating between active terror and expectant boredom.

Much to the medical staff’s surprise, Calvin was not born the instant I was taken off my preterm labor medications. However, they assured me he would be born any day since at that point I was dilated 5 cm. A couple of weeks later, my obstetrician started making noises about inducing me. After some compromises, we decided that I would go in for an induction on March 26, Calvin’s official due date.

On March 25, Jaeger and I ran last minute errands and made sure that we were as prepared as we could be for Calvin’s arrival. As previously instructed, I called the hospital an hour before I was scheduled to be admitted to make sure they still had time for the induction that day. Everything was still on scheduled so Jaeger and I arrived at the hospital around 7:45 AM and went up to the labor and delivery floor. Our first labor and delivery nurse introduced herself and helped us get oriented. I had to sign a bunch of paperwork and then they administered my penicillin IV.

Since I was GBS positive, one reason the doctors had pushed for the induction in the first place was because they wanted me to be able to get a full 4 hours of penicillin before Calvin was born (one of the Denver doctors predicted I’d have a 2 hour labor and thus wouldn’t have time for the full dose). Penicillin is delivered via an IV every 4 hours while in labor. However, once the dose has been delivered, it is okay to remove the IV. The previous day, I had started panicking about the IV because I was concerned they might put it in and leave it instead of giving me a heplock to make it easy to take off and on. However, Jaeger reminded me that we had already discussed this with my doctor and learned it shouldn’t be a problem to go off the IV at the hospital once each dose had been delivered. While I was on the IV, they monitored my contractions and the baby’s heart rate. I had my normal amount of contractions and Calvin was as happy as ever.

Our doula arrived an hour before we expected my water to be broken. This freed Jaeger up to run out and grab some lunch before all the excitement was scheduled to begin. While waiting for the doctor, we chatted with her a bit about how we met and our families.

Around 1:00 PM, Dr. B showed up to break my water. She started with a cervical exam which is never very pleasant. I was 5 cm dilated, 50% effaced and at -1 station. Then nurse then passed her the little crotchet needle-like wand. Somewhere I had heard it hurt when ones water was broken so I was very surprised to all of a sudden feel a warm gush of liquid. Dr. B seemed surprised by the amount of water. After the doctor left, we settled in to wait and see if anything happened. To pass the time, we paced the room and wandered around the halls. I was attempting to stay active in order to help promote labor. A little bit later, my contractions started to get more intense and actually started to be a little uncomfortable.

At 3:00 PM, the nurse checked me again. At this point, I was still 5 cm dilated but effaced 80% and Calvin had moved to station 0. The nurse reported the results back to the doctor who suggested that just a bit of pitocin might send me over the edge into full blown labor. Neither Jaeger nor I was very fond of the idea, especially since not much time had passed. We asked to put off getting pitocin for a little while and I got up and walked around a bit. A couple of minutes later our first nurse told us that she was leaving (she was a sub) and introduced us to her replacement. Her replacement stuck around and said that she heard we were reluctant to use pitocin. We told her she was correct. She then looked at us for just a moment and said something like, “should I be bold? I’ll be bold. I’ll be back in just a moment.” Jaeger, the doula, and I all just stared at her departing in bemusement. A moment later she was back with a very warm folded blanket. She told me to put it up against my breasts as it acted like mild nipple stipulation. I’d never heard of this method before but it didn’t seem like it’d hurt anything. I’m not sure if it was the warm blanket or just coincidence but it did appear that my contractions picked up after that.

At 5:00 PM, I started really feeling the contractions. At this point, they were noticeable and uncomfortable even when I was standing up. I told Jaeger that he needed to go get supper immediately if he wanted something for the rest of the night. He wandered off and our doula stayed with me. Not too long after he was gone they got even worse and I started feeling nauseated. Jaeger arrived back from picking up supper just as I threw up. Once I really started labor, I think I went straight to the transition stage. The labor nurse suggested that the Jacuzzi tub might be soothing and it seemed like a good idea since I’ve always liked warm baths. However, I got in and couldn’t get comfortable. The tubs were quite big which originally seemed like a good idea but there wasn’t a way for me to prop myself off (they might have been designed with the idea of accommodating the husbands too). I ended up sitting cross legged in the tub which wasn’t as relaxing as I had hoped. About this time I was deep enough into labor that I had lost all my inhibitions and was completely naked. Our birthing instructor had told us that this might happen but I didn’t believe her. As a side note, when I was in labor I really didn’t care about any of my surroundings. My world shrunk to be just big enough to accommodate Calvin and I. During birthing classes you learn about all sorts of embarrassing things you or your body might do during labor. Trust me, when the time comes, you really don’t care.

I remember thinking that the contractions really hurt but they were survivable. Our doula was great. She helped massage me and also gave suggestions to Jaeger on what I might like to try. We tried a couple of positions. I don’t remember much of this time period except I was on the birthing ball a bit and I really liked it when they would rub my lower back really hard. The next time I was checked, I had dilated to 8-9 cm. Fairly quickly after the nurse had checked me, I mentioned that I wanted to go to the bathroom. I didn’t think I wanted to push but the nurse said that I really shouldn’t go to the bathroom as dilated as I was as I probably wanted to push without realizing it.

Just a little bit after 6:30 PM I started pushing. I don’t actually remember anyone telling me I could. I’m pretty sure they never double checked to make sure I was at 10 cm which confused me at the time. I started out on my hands and knees which was one of the most comfortable positions for me. However, over the next 2 ½ hrs we tried a lot of positions. I remember hands and knees, on my side, classic C, and squatting. There might have been other positions but those are the ones I remember. Without a doubt, this stage was the hardest part for me and I quickly lost coherent thought. I could no longer really feel my contractions as contractions. It felt more like constant discomfort that occasionally peaked. I kept telling them that I couldn’t really feel my contractions but they said that I must feel them because I always breathed heavier when the monitor said I was starting to have one. (They had put me back on the monitor once I started having the contractions but I don’t know how that all worked because by then I was completely out of it. I have a vague recollection of our doula holder the monitor onto me so I would still have enough freedom to keep moving around.) All I know is when I was pushing, I was never entirely sure I was pushing at the right time. I also never felt that my contractions were rhythmic. To me, they felt like they were completely random. Sometimes it felt like I had a couple of minutes between contractions and sometimes they seemed to come one after another. I did learn that I pushed much more effectively when the nurse put her fingers inside of me and gave me something to aim for (it sounds really weird but it worked for me). Also, I remember that at one point when I was in the squatting position our doula and Jaeger were on opposite sides of me applying pressure as hard as they could. That felt as good as pretty much anything could at that point.

I think they had called Dr. B when I first started pushing. Periodically she would pop in and take a look. At some point, they realized that Calvin’s head was rotated 45 degrees from where it should have been. His head kept banging up against my pubic bone and we couldn’t get him over it. I remember both the nurse and Dr. B trying to turn him without success. Their attempts didn’t feel good. I started losing energy. I could feel my pushing getting weaker. Jaeger tried giving me honey sticks which our birthing instructor had recommended as a good source of quick energy. However, I couldn’t stand them. They were way too sweet. The next thing he tried was giving me Gatorade. To my surprise, because generally I loathe Gatorade, I was able to tolerate that much better than the honey. At one point, I remember asking the labor nurse what all my options were. She started listing options but none of them sounded good to me. One of the things she mentioned was augmenting with pictocin in hopes of strengthening the contractions. To me at the time, that sounded like an awful idea. However, looking back with my head clear, I can see how stronger contractions might have made it easier for me to distinguish what was going on. As a side note, I was surprised that I never asked for an epidural. I had given Jaeger elaborate instructions on how he was to determine if I really meant it when I asked for an epidural. I seriously thought about it several times but never actually opened my mouth to say I wanted one.

About 2 ½ hours after I started pushing Dr. B came in to check up on how I was doing. Apparently when I pushed they could see his head but he wasn’t even close to crowning. I think she said something to the nurse about him not having moved much since she last looked in but I could have been wrong. I don’t know exactly how the conversation came to be, but she did offer that a cesarean might be an option at this point. (I don’t remember her exact phrasing. It was very vague, something like we can go in and get him or something like that.) He wasn’t close enough that they could try any other type of intervention. By this point, I had completely lost hope that he was ever going to come out. We had tried several different pushing positions in hopes of shifting him and neither that nor the medical staff trying to turn him appeared to be working. I suppose it’s possible that if I’d continued longer he might have come out vaginally but even looking back now, I doubt that would have happened. When I talked to Dr. B about it later, she seemed to think that there was no way he would have come out vaginally.

As soon as Dr. B offered the cesarean option, I jumped on it. As incoherent as I was, that was really what I had in mind back when I asked the nurse for all my options. I just couldn’t bring myself to ask for it. I must confess, I didn’t even double check with Jaeger to see what he thought about it. I feel bad about that now. Given the state I was in, I probably should have first consulted my more coherent half. Once I indicated I wanted a cesarean, the medical staff jumped into action. There was a consent form that I had to sign (I have to wonder, would it really have been binding if I contested it later? I can’t imagine any woman on a jury who had been through childbirth would have said I was in my right mind at the time.) and staff to hunt down. Unfortunately, this was all in the middle of a snow storm so the hospital was a little shorter staffed than usual. At this point, there wasn’t any sense in me pushing but little pushes felt better than nothing.

Eventually, everything was ready and they wheeled me into the labor and delivery operating room. Jaeger and the doula were instructed to wait outside while they prepped me. The anesthesiologist apologized that numbing the area before giving the spinal would sting and be pretty uncomfortable. If I would have been in a condition to laugh, I would have. I’ve had IVs that feel worse than the numbing for the spinal. The spinal took effect almost immediately. It was amazing. Up until that point, I hadn’t realized how much pain my body had been in. I spent the rest of the operation near giddy with relief.

Naturally, my view of the caesarean was almost nonexistent. The anesthesiologist was to the left behind my head the entire time. He spent a lot of time talking to me telling me what was happening. Jaeger and the doula were to my right. It seemed to me that they were removed Calvin quickly. Once he had been removed, he was whisked over to a table to my right. I could kind of see what was happening but it was a little bleary because I didn’t have my glasses. However, I remember thinking he looked really big and his head was strange (very conical on top). Previously we had discussed the remote possibility of a cesarean and Jaeger and I had agreed that he would stay with Calvin to make sure at least one parent was with him as soon as possible. Jaeger went over to the table where they were taking care of Calvin. Once their initial assessment of Calvin was done, they let Jaeger carry him over to me so I could take a look. Then Calvin and Jaeger went to the recover room. The doula stayed with me as they put me back together. For some reason I was surprised by how much longer it took compared to getting Calvin out. However, eventually they finished and I was wheeled into the recovery room.

In the recovery room, they finished working on Calvin and brought him over to me so I could hold him and try breastfeeding. He seemed alert and very interested in trying to feed. Breastfeeding felt uncomfortable but having never experienced breastfeeding before, I couldn’t tell whether or not it was normal. I think they kept me in the recovery room for about an hour to make sure I didn’t have any unexpected side effects. I was very fortunate in that I seemed to have skipped all the side effects, even nausea which the anesthesiologist had told me about 50% of women get. From recovery, Calvin and I were wheeled into our postpartum room. Jaeger was there when we arrived.

I don’t remember much of the night after that point. Jaeger attempted to sleep on the dreadful sleeper sofa in the room. It was exceptionally noisy every time he turned over. Nurses kept popping in and out taking Calvin and my vitals to make sure we both survived the experience.

It wasn’t the birth story I expected but I was really happy with the outcome. Our goal had been healthy baby, mother, and father and that’s what we got.

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