In the beginning... of my full term week.
At my 40 week appointment on Monday, September 23, I waddled into my doctor's office and was hooked up the external fetal heart monitor, which measured my contractions (there, but small) and I got checked for dilation again.
I had been 1.5 for the past 3 weeks, and when my doctor said I was "almost 2" (after I asked, "Am I 2 yet?!?"), I replied, "WOOHOO!" (There may have been a fist pump too.) Will said that meant I was 1.75 cm. I took my victory anyways.
As it was the day before my due date, my dear doctor said we could discuss an eviction notice on Thursday, when I was to come in next. If that was the case, Grace could have been evicted on September 28, a Saturday, since her Dad was going to be traveling to an interview the following week. Many people have opinions on inducing labor, but I do not. I know babies can take up to 43 weeks to be born. I also do not know if I actually would have agreed to induce labor, but I certainly entertained the idea.
The next day!
September 24! Bebe's due date! Came and went with a deluge of Monk episodes and a pancake party.
The 12 Labors of Hercules ain't got nothing on contractions
I had been up half the night due to persistent Braxton-Hicks pains across my abdomen - dullish, but kept they me awake. I had insomnia for a majority of my third trimester and got up early for me, feeling sluggish and wanting breakfast. I didn't eat much, talked to my in-laws about an hour later, and told them that I wasn't feeling like today was the day. I watched Monk, worked on a writing project, and looked up what real labor pains were, and how to recognize them.
The one that caught my eye was lower back pain. I ate a small lunch and proceeded to go to the bathroom at least a dozen times. I started feeling ill and unable to focus on Monk. I had been gchatting with my sister Katie and told her I couldn't type any more, and that I'd talk to her later. That's when the back pains started. Then the contractions.
I cannot emphasize enough that YOU WILL KNOW when you are having a contractions. The first time I had Braxton-Hicks back in April, they scared me. I had never felt pain in my abdomen before; I was worried I was miscarrying. As the months went on, they resembled strong menstrual cramps. They hurt but are manageable. Sometimes I had to sit down and clutch my stomach, but, again, manageable.
HOLY COW. CONTRACTIONS HURT A LOT. ALOTALOTALOTALOTALOT.
Fortunately, Will had the piece of mind to start timing them. If you have an iPhone, I really recommend the "laps" feature on the clock app. While I was having contractions, I could barely click the "lap" button, let alone see what time it was between sets.
After an hour of contractions lasting between a minute and two (okay, definitely 4-1-1 here), I called my OB's office. They said to come in to be checked. I called my doula Chelsey so she could arrive within the hour. I'm glad I was already packed - Will loaded up the car as I moaned on the bed. I also took a hot shower before we left for the hospital, which may have been one of my best decisions of the day.
Hospital, here we come!
Will dropped me off in front of the medical office building to see my OB and I waddled inside, clutching my belly. I signed in and sat down in a chair and practiced breathing. All the pregnant women (and some significant others) stared at me. The lady next to me asked me if I was okay.
Oh yes, I said. I'M JUST IN LABOR. (Emphasis mine.)
She asked if I wanted water. I declined. She had obviously not gone into labor yet. I was saved by more awkward conversation making (why???) by the nurse calling me back. My doctor was at the desk in the front, and he gave me the "Are You SURE You're In Labor?" smirk. I told him to stop smirking at me; that this was for real. (And just in case you get the wrong impression, I adore my OB - we have an excellent relationship! Hence my sassiness.)
I was strapped up to the fetal heart monitor again, and was checked for dilation again. Hello, almost 4 cm. To the hospital I go!
Fortunately, my doctor called ahead. Unfortunately, there were no beds.
Will and I had met Chelsey outside the hospital, and I was having a rough time with my contractions. She started helping me with breathing exercises and encouraging me to stop moving when I felt a particularly painful one. As there were no beds yet available, the nurses put me in a wheelchair and sent be in the waiting area. I feel particularly bad that all the visitors waiting had to witness me moaning and crying through my contractions, but I did what I had to do!
For those who are interested in a doula (or learning more), I cannot more highly recommend one. My SILs "gave" me Chelsey's services as a baby shower gift, and it was one of the best presents I've ever received. She helped me visualize my contractions as a wave, with a peak, and help me know that each one would end as well as begin. She held me while I cried (Will had to run out to re-park the car and get our bags since we didn't know whether my doctor was actually going to send me into L&D); she encouraged me and acknowledged by pain and helped me slow my breathing down. She had me smell this orange-y essential oil and gave me a ball to squeeze. Will was my rock during the whole process, and Chelsey was my motivator! Labor is definitely a team effort.
|Will and me, and his bag of Wheaties - we packed the essentials!|
Needs for hospital: zip up hoodie, thick socks. I was freezing cold post-epidural because of the saline.
|Baby's heartbeat and contractions!|
|Hanging out before the real fun began|
As I am married to a newly-minted M.D., I have a soft-spot for medical students and residents. When a nurse asked me if I would be okay having residents and med students come in and check on me, I said, The more, the merrier! (Or something like that.) While I might get embarrassed wearing a two-piece swim suit, I was insanely comfortable with my legs propped up and medical personnel looking at me, or rather, my lady area. Why? Because it's their job. They're not oogling at me; they're there to learn, and if patients do not give them the opportunity to observe and practice, how can they become better doctors? (Hopping off my soap box now.)
My first 30ish minutes of pushing was especially hard, mostly because I've never had to push a baby out of me before, and pushing, in general, is hard. Also, about 30 minutes before I started pushing, I got a terrible pain in my left upper thigh. It turns out, I had a hot spot where the epidural did not numb me. For better and for worse, I knew exactly when to push. Believe me when I say, the pain I felt in that one concentrated area reminded me of the beauty of modern medicine and made me swear I would never-ever-ever go natural, if I could help it.
I'm also a person who laughs and makes awkward jokes while she feels awkward (hello, legs up!) or needs to feel distracted, so between contractions, I was named coolest patient ever (direct quote) and they even laughed at my jokes, God bless 'em. By the time my doctor showed up, I was ready for labor to be over. Chelsey kept telling me to relax my face, and the resident would have preferred I grunted less, but oh well. I did try...! So much pain. I also focused on Will and held his hand. He's the best, and I tell him so quite often.
The baby's head was observable for a decent chunk of my pushing time, which did not help my morale. I couldn't believe she had hair already! (Maybe that's where my heartburn came from?) Or that her head was poking out and every time I pushed, she wasn't coming out any faster. I swear the nurse kept telling me "One more time!" as she counted to 3 (and sometimes 4) big pushes per contraction, but no one remembers that like I do. My doctor kept telling me to push "differently" and I timidly asked for ice water - I was so dehydrated. Finally, after an hour and a half of pushing, I told everyone that I couldn't do it any more, and everyone told me I could. One push later, Miss Grace Harriet Baldwin came out into the bright world!
She had very expansive lungs. She also had very impressive APGAR scores: 9 and 10. Chelsey says it is because my doctor pushed the blood from her umbilical cord up to her body immediately after birth. Will cut the cord, and they placed that beautiful screamer on top of me. I didn't cry like I thought I would, but I was also terribly exhausted and so, so, so, so very glad to meet my baby.