Alec Douglas arrived SEVEN weeks ago! He is perfect and healthy. I am recovering nicely. Don and Lily Ruth are over-the-moon happy, and both have been immeasurably loving and helpful. I have been unable until now to find time to sit down and write this out, but with the help of the notes I made at the time (excellent forethought!), here is his birth story:
This is a looong and mildly graphic story of childbirth - you have been warned.
Aside from the gallbladder surgery, and a few weeks of prodromal labor, my pregnancy was pretty uneventful, and very healthy. Because of the prodromal labor (more intense than Braxton-Hicks, but tapers off before becoming full-blown labor), my midwife group did not expect me to make it to my due date. Imagine our surprise when I showed up for my 40 week appointment ;-) After a membrane sweep and an hour or so of monitoring (Alec's heart rate was low when she checked it, but leveled out nicely while being monitored), I was sent home to wait until he was ready to show.
The following week, I was standing in the kitchen (right around 3 pm) making a snack for Lily Ruth when my water broke :-O It was truly an odd sensation. Not a huge gush, but unmistakable for anything else. I cleaned myself up and explained to a very curious Lily Ruth what happened ("remember how we discussed that baby Alec was growing inside a water balloon in my belly? Well, that balloon broke because it's time for him to come out!"). Lily Ruth insisted that we all put on green. Green dresses for Mama and Lily Ruth. Green shirt for Daddy. I took one last picture of my baby belly:
Lily Ruth began telling stories about being pregnant with her daughter Penny and having her "membranes swept last Saturday". I was still slightly leaking amniotic fluid, and definitely felt a new and more intense pressure on my pubic bone.
We hung out at home for a while. No contractions.
5 pm - I decided that I wanted cookies (!?). Using dough from the freezer, Lily Ruth and I made sugar cookies. Then I made buttercream icing - from scratch. Not a huge effort, but delightfully distracting :-)
6 pm - we decided to walk the neighborhood. There was a storm coming in, and I wanted the pressure change to have it's full effect on my laboring process. We watched the beautiful black clouds roll in, and felt a few small raindrops, but I only had a few small contractions. Not the real thing yet!
We had dinner, got Lily Ruth packed and ready,
9 pm - we went to bed around . We watched t.v. and stared into space. No contractions. Don fell asleep around 11 p.m. I fell asleep around 1 a.m. Don woke up around 1:30 a.m. and moved out to the living room. I woke up around 3:30 a.m. and joined him. No contractions. We stared at BBC America for a while.
4 am -Don couldn't take it any more. "We should just get ready and go to the hospital." I agreed. We ate (lightly), finished packing, dressed and wandered to the car. Still no contractions.
5:30 am - We checked in to the hospital, and were settled into a labor suite. No triage for me since my water had already broken. Lauren (the midwife) came in to talk about our options. Basically, my options were 1) pitocin now or 2) pitocin later (pitocin is a synthetic hormone that induces uterine contractions). She explained that since my labor had not already started on it's own, it was unlikely to do so before the 24-hour cut off. We were welcome to hang out in our delivery suite until 3 p.m. and start the pitocin then, but the longer we waited, the more nervous the pediatrician and nursery team would become. It would be more likely that they would keep Alec for observation. She also reminded us that we would be unlikely to really rest between now and then, therefore we would not get any less tired than we already were. We voted for pitocin now, and called my parents to join us.
6:30 am -The pitocin was started at it's lowest level (a 2). It was supposed to be monitored and probably increased every 15-30 minutes until my body established a regular contraction pattern. Luckily for me, it was time for a shift change, and they forgot to increase my pitocin level until later. With the shift change, we lost Lauren, and gained Amy. The great part about this midwife practice is that by the time you deliver, you are comfortable with all of the midwives. It is a blessing to have any one of them deliver your baby.
6:43 am - My first contraction hit. It was INTENSE. I had to stop talking to breathe and use my low tones when each one came on. They were immediately 5 minutes apart and gradually became stronger. Because of the pitocin, Alec and I were both being continuously monitored, so I was unable to leave the hospital bed to labor. I had forgotten that this would happen. I was disappointed about being stuck in the bed, but I felt like I was holding up pretty well so far...
8:15 am - A nurse came in and increased the level of the pitocin to a 4. My contractions moved to 2-3 minutes apart, and became even more intense. I could feel quite a bit of pressure in my low back, so we called the nurse back in.
8:50 am - I "demanded" that the nurse turn off the pitocin. I had decided that enough was enough of that awful stuff. It was obvious that my contractions were consistent and increasing. The pitocin was turned off, and the midwife was called in to check my progress.
When Amy checked me, I was only 5 cm dilated (and had a bulging forebag of water?!). I had expected a lot more in the way of dilation. She mentioned that she expected the rest of my labor to progress quickly, and said that she would check in on me soon.
My contractions increased in intensity again. I had my support team (Don, Mom and Dad) raise the head of the bed as high as it would go. Then I draped my laboring self across the top and held on for dear life. Low tones were harder to maintain. Amy came back into the room and asked if I wanted to labor on the ball for a while. Since the pitocin was off and the monitors on me and Alec looked good, I was now allowed to leave the hospital bed!
After quite a bit of maneuvering, I was on the ball and leaning against the bed. Amy spent about 15 minutes watching me handle contractions, then she excused herself to check on other mamas and to check in at her office (across the parking lot). Soon after she left, the contractions increased in intensity again. I was having a much harder time controlling my breathing and using any kind of tone. Something that Amy said earlier while watching me came to the front of my mind: "it's just the baby coming down." I began repeating "It's not scary, it's just the baby" on a loop during each contraction and visualizing our boy moving down and out safely. I was holding Don's hands across the bed and my mom and dad took turns applying counter-pressure to my low back... at least I think that's what was happening... all I know is that pressure was being applied, and I managed to yell "NOBODY BREATHE ON ME!" at some point... sorry, guys!
Contractions started coming with almost no break, and I felt my legs straighten me to almost a standing position. I found out the true meaning of pressure, and I yelled "I'm PUSHING" - because I was. Completely involuntarily. My mom raced out into the hall to find someone with medical knowledge to join us in the birthing suite - anyone! She found a nurse, and the room was soon bustling as the nursery nurses and the l&d nurses rushed to prepare the room.
A nurse told me that I needed to get back up on the bed. I told her no. I said that I couldn't. I looked Don in the eye and told him that I couldn't do this. It was too hard and it hurt too much. I knew that I was in transition, and it felt like it was happening FAST. I could feel our son moving out of my belly and preparing to make his entrance. I was trying to get on the bed, but the contractions were only seconds apart, and I felt unable to move during them, so I had very little time to make adjustments to my position before a new one hit. I made it onto the bed on my knees then held on to Don's neck and screamed into his shoulder for a few contractions. I knew that Amy wasn't back yet, and all of a sudden, I was 1) bound and determined not to have that baby with just some nurses that I had never met in attendance, 2) terrified that he was moving to fast, and I was about to tear, and 3) um... really afraid that I was going to poop. Ridiculous. All of it. If the baby is coming, there is almost no stopping it. Still, I held on to Don and refused to move from that spot. I changed from just screaming into his shoulder to yelling "NONONONONONONO." When queried as to why I was freaking out, I just said "I'm SCARED. This is too scary."
That's when Amy made it back. She very calmly let me know that she was there, and asked me why I was scared. I told her that I needed help. She said "I'm here to help you." I stopped yelling at everybody, and moved into a half-reclined position on the bed. I flipped out when they tried to hold a monitor on my belly for a moment to check on Alec - I had no idea how much the outside of my belly hurt until then!
I actively pushed for two contractions, and he began to crown. Amy asked me to wait. I told her I would try. I held through 1 or two contractions, then she told me I could push again. On the next push, his head delivered. My mom said that visually, it was stunning - just after his head appeared, his arm popped out. Alec had a nuchal arm (a hand that stayed directly next to his face during delivery)... um... it was really uncomfortable... on the next contraction, the rest of his body was delivered, and they handed him to me!
Don and my parents snapped pictures and stared in awe at that beautiful baby as Alec was weighed and measured. He was 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 3/4 inches long.
My mom almost refused to let my dad hold him. But her generous nature won out in the end. I DID remind her that he already had an alarm band on his ankle. If she tried to sneak him out to love on him all on her own, she'd be in biiiiiiiig trouble :-P
As soon as the after birth delightfulness was completed (a healthy placenta and only two tears requiring stitches), Don raced out to retrieve Lily Ruth. He was so excited, and we both wanted to share him with her as soon as possible!
While he was gone, I wandered into the bathroom to clean up before Lily Ruth returned. I didn't want the blood to scare her. Well, apparently I lost more blood than they thought, because I 'grayed out' in the bathroom. I felt it coming on, so I sat down until it passed. I was fine, but I was partially unresponsive when my mom and then my nurse tried to check on me through the door. Oh LORDY. That triggered a 'Code Yellow' (fall alert) in the labor and delivery ward. Nurses everywhere. An armed security guard at my door. Administrators with concerned faces... I had to tell a bazillion people that I did NOT fall - I sat down. My nurse (a timid, tiny thing), was shaky after that. Oi. Oh, and in the midst of it, Alec's security band came loose. After my 'warning', my mom was convinced that the guard was there to make sure she didn't try to leave with Alec.
Despite the insanity, I managed to get cleaned up and re-situated in the bed. Soon after, Lily Ruth raced into the room yelling "ALEC! ALEC DOUGLAS!" Her face upon meeting her brother was priceless.
The remainder of our stay was uneventful. Just (a tiny bit of) resting, an intense amount of bonding, and all of it eased and aided by a truly wonderful staff.
All in all, it was amazing and scary and full of intense, incredible emotion. Our family is healthy and happy.