I wanted to document Samuel’s birth story. As a warning, this post probably contains far too many details for most of you. It’s wicked long (7 pages when I pasted it into Microsoft Word) and extremely detailed but I know there are some people who will be interested and I wanted the details for my own journaling purposes. Just know that if you are easily disgusted, easily offended or quickly bored… this post likely isn’t for you. If you don’t want to read any further I won’t even cry about it :)
Tuesday afternoon (March 3, 2009) I had a doctor’s appointment just to see how things were going. I was almost a week past my due date and had been dilated to 3cm for a couple of weeks so we were definitely anxiously awaiting Samuel’s arrival, but as I posted previously we had no intention to induce labor without medical reason. This was just a routine checkup to make sure everything was ok. My mom came to the appointment with me because Eric was still in class, and it’s really boring sitting in those waiting rooms all by yourself. Before the doctor saw me I went in and had my vitals checked, as I have at every appointment for the last 9 months. Urine sample, blood pressure, weight check. No big deal. However, after checking my blood pressure the nurse commented that it was pretty high – which hadn’t been a problem for me before that point. But she sent me back to the waiting room until the doctor was ready for me.
We waited for an hour or so until it was our turn and when we went in to the office my doctor confirmed what I was afraid of – she was worried that I had some signs of preeclampsia and since I was already 5 days past my due date she wanted to induce labor. It was really good in some ways, my mom had been in town for almost two weeks (she came to move my brother up to Utah) and was going to head back to California that day but had decided to stick around just in case they did decide to induce labor. Plus, I hadn’t made any more progress, the apartment was ready, I’d finished my projects for work… it was just time. However, the idea of being induced went against my goal of having a needle-free childbirth. Luckily, my doctor said we could start by breaking my water and seeing if that would start labor before starting any drugs. I had wanted that before drugs because that was what would always initiate my mom going into full labor. Also, Pitocin makes contractions more intense than they would be otherwise, which was something I wanted to avoid. So, we agreed that my mom and I would go pick up Eric and meet back at the hospital.
It was really funny picking Eric up and being like, “Hi honey, how was class? So, the doctor said it’s time to have the baby, you ready? Ok, let’s head over to the hospital… now.” Unfortunately the night before Eric had gotten hardly any sleep and we knew that we were in for a long night ahead. Of course, we had sorta figured that his lack of sleep was a sign that it was the right day, Murphy’s law would definitely state that the day that the husband had gotten the least amount of sleep is the day for the baby to be born :P . We headed home to pick up a few things (read: my iPod and headphones). While we were there Eric gave me a blessing which definitely helped calm my nerves and really gave me the strength that I needed to get through the rest of that night. The power of the priesthood is so awesome and I am so grateful every day to have a worthy priesthood holder for my husband. Once we had all of the things we needed we headed to the hospital.
It took a little while to get me admitted. We weren’t too bothered though, it wasn’t like we were going anywhere or like I was in any sort of pain since my labor hadn’t actually started yet. One thing I really appreciated at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (the hospital I went to) was that they encouraged me over and over again to ask questions about the treatments I was receiving. I always like to ask questions so that I know what’s going on and can make sure that I’m making the best decisions for my health, but I’m generally a little bit sheepish about it because I don’t want to make anyone upset with me. It was really good to feel like I could ask questions without worrying that the doctors and nurses would feel like I was trying to undermine their authority or question their judgment.
So, we got all checked in and they had me change into my lovely hospital gown. The nurse then had a bunch of questions to go through with me before doing my blood work. Oh goody, the most dreaded part of this entire experience for me – the blood work. Yes, I do realize how dumb it is that the blood work was a bigger deal for me than the labor was, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Luckily I had Eric and my mom there, and both of them understand the extent of my phobia and how best to handle me. So, Eric was able to stay with me while I tried to relax. In the meantime my mom went out and instructed the nurse on how best to work with me. See, one of the weird things with me is that talking me through it just makes things worse. While most nurses think they’re being helpful by walking me through it (“ok, now this isn’t a big deal, we’re just going to clean this off. Alright, now this will be just a little pinch…”) it forces me to focus on what is happening which makes things worse. So it’s much better if I can pretend that it’s not happening and they can just do their thing. With all that support, the self-hypnosis I’ve been working on, Eric’s blessing and the fact that I was laying down – I didn’t pass out! Which of course isn’t to say that I didn’t freak out and come close (the nurse later commented that she could tell that I had a legitimate phobia because she could feel how cold my hands got all of a sudden as I was struggling to maintain myself). I’m very grateful now that my mom convinced me to just allow the nurse to set up an IV while she did the blood draw (all through the same stick). Once it was in it wasn’t as big of a deal as I had thought it would be (seeing IVs in other people has always freaked me out so I didn’t have high expectations). It helped that the nurse had covered the IV with some gauze but I still had to pretend that my left arm didn’t exist for the next couple hours until I got used to the idea of there being a tube stuck in my arm, but overall it was ok.
Once the IV was set my doctor came in and broke my water. Having my water broken surprisingly wasn’t that big of a deal. Just a little pressure and then a lot of gushing. The doctor commented that the amniotic fluid was a little bit green. Uh oh, green amniotic fluid means that there is meconium (the baby’s first stool) in the amniotic fluid which can signal fetal distress. It’s not that uncommon in babies who are overdue (which Samuel was) and isn’t an emergency situation, it just means that the doctors will want to keep a closer eye on how the baby is doing with labor and how he does immediately after birth. It did show that it was a very good thing that we were inducing labor at that point because Samuel was obviously ready to come out!
Once my water was broken the doctors and nurses just left us to do whatever. They could monitor my progress remotely and there’s not a whole lot that needs to be done at that point. This was around 5pm. I didn’t want to move from the bed because I was leaking amniotic fluid and didn’t want to get that everywhere. But otherwise things were pretty good. The first couple of hours I felt lame because the contractions weren’t intense yet, but I was stuck to a bed. It seemed like there was something I ought to be doing to get labor to progress, but of course my body was already doing that without my cognitive efforts. It just seemed weird for all of us to be waiting around for me to do something… and I wasn’t able to control me doing it or not doing it.
Around 7pm my mom and Eric convinced Jayson to go get some pizza for them. On the other hand I was consigned to eating the hospital’s bread and fruit punch. Actually I didn’t mind it that much, it was good bread and as the contractions were starting to intensify slightly I didn’t really want pizza anyways. But I did make sure that I loaded up on as much bread and fruit punch as they would give me since I knew it was the last food I’d be allowed to eat for awhile.
After my family’s delivery room pizza party Jayson left and my mom went back to our apartment to get some things and take a quick nap. I suggested that Eric take a nap in the reclining chair. He protested a little that he could stay awake to support me. While I really appreciated the sentiment, my contractions weren’t that bad yet so there wasn’t much he could do. Plus I knew he needed sleep and I would really need him later that evening, so he gave in and took a little bit of a nap. Of course, it was during his nap that the contractions started to get more intense. Not really bad but it was better when I focused on relaxing myself and breathed through them. I had a lot of fun watching the monitors and trying to predict when the next contraction would come.
Don’t ask me why it was so fun for me to watch that, but I really enjoyed it. I don’t think Eric got much of a nap in because he could hear me start breathing through my contractions and came to sit by me. I felt really bad for Eric because he could tell I was in pain, but couldn’t really do anything about it. Although, just having him there helped more than I think he understands. He would have been happier if I would have just gotten the epidural so that he didn’t have to watch me be in pain. But I really appreciated him supporting me through everything and not trying to push me to do anything I didn’t want to do. He is the best!
Over the next couple of hours the contractions slowly increased in quantity and intensity. Eric had found an internet connection (of course :) ) and we tried to watch some TV shows on Hulu, but the connection wasn’t good enough. So we resorted to listening to music, which was probably better anyways because it gave me something to focus on without needing to focus too deeply. We played the music with Winamp and I focused on their visualizations during the contractions (although some of them made me a little dizzy :P ) My mom came back while we were listening to the music and thought it was funny that my music of choice was Angels and Airwaves, Relient K, John Mayer etc. She and Eric had both figured that I would have wanted something more calming like Jon Schmidt or Enya (frankly, before labor, so did I). However, having the more upbeat music gave me a little more to focus on to take my attention away from the contractions.
I think it was around 9pm that the music stopped holding my attention enough and I had to go deep into relaxation mode. I wasn’t very talkative from this point until Samuel was born, but Eric got to be really good at reading my body language. He would watch the monitors and see when a contraction was coming on and help me to brace myself and relax. Having my mom there was especially helpful because she was able to sorta coach me through the contractions and help Eric figure out how he could best help as well. It was awesome having someone there who both knew me really well and had been through this before.
About this time my nurses switched over as well, and as my first nurse, Amy, was leaving my mom asked her about what pain management options were available, even though I hadn’t asked for anything. She said they had a fast acting drug called Fentanyl that just took the edge off of the contractions but it only lasted for a short amount of time. She did warn me that they wouldn’t give it to me too late in the labor as it could have adverse side effects on the baby. I was really glad that my mom asked because it was a question that I had but hadn’t had the chance to ask. Before going in I’d figured that if I had an IV that I’d just go for the epidural, since I couldn’t avoid needles at that point anyways. However, even though I’d come to terms with my IV I still couldn’t bring myself to consider another needle, especially since my back is pretty sensitive. I was also feeling empowered seeing what my body could do and wasn’t ready to give that up.
Around 9:45 things started really picking up. Whereas I’d had a good break between each of my contractions before to recover, they started coming in sets. I think they were getting to where I’d have about 3 contractions each lasting about 1 minute with about a 10 second break between each one and then about a minute break between the sets. I had stolen a mantra from a girl on the Pregtastic podcast (I listened to every single episode during my pregnancy, it was one of the most helpful things to help me get through all 9 months). She was a long distance runner before her pregnancy and she said her mantra to get through labor was “I can do anything for a minute”. Since I used to run cross country I could relate to that kind of endurance strategy and it was working really well for me until I stopped having the breaks between contractions. About 10pm I asked for a dose of Fentanyl. It was one of the best things I did that whole night. They only gave me a small dose and it didn’t take away everything, but it definitely decreased the intensity of the contractions to a huge degree and gave me about 45 minutes of relaxation which helped me get through the rest of the night.
At this point I think I was at about 8cm. I’d come in at 3.5cm and then progressed pretty steadily once my water was broken. After the first dose of Fentanyl I was getting too close to the end of labor to have another dose. While I wouldn’t have said no to another dose I was way more interested in Samuel’s well being than a little bit of pain so it wasn’t a big deal. Around 11pm the contractions really started getting intense and I started having the urge to push. The nurse checked me and I was at 8cm. She said to call her back in when I was feeling a lot of rectal pressure. I think I called her back in to check me again about every 15 minutes after that. It seemed like I was at 8cm for eternity. That was definitely the most difficult part of the whole labor was that hour that I felt like I wanted to push to get the pressure off, but not being far enough along to actually push. I think the consequences of starting to push too soon are mostly the risk of the baby’s head or the cervix getting swollen from the pressure and actually regressing (the baby isn’t going to be able to come out at that point anyways because the cervix isn’t open enough yet) and just having to push forever and wearing myself out.
Fortunately, my mom and Eric were there helping me through this. I’m not exactly sure when they started doing this but I think it was before 11pm. My mom started rubbing my legs, which for whatever reason felt really really good. Eric put pressure on my hips when a contraction would come. It sounds kinda strange but it helped SO much, I couldn’t have gotten through those contractions without him. I had read that would help somewhere and heard about it on another episode of Pregtastic and it really was amazing how much it helped. I felt really bad for Eric though because he was leaning over the bed and then pushing my hips as hard as he could during each contraction. I wanted to tell him that he could stop and take a break because it was definitely putting a lot of strain on his back, but the difference it made for me was so monumental that I couldn’t let him leave. His back hurt a lot afterwards. My mom would switch off with him from time to time, but she wasn’t able to get as good of pressure as Eric did so I was always glad when they would switch back. I’m really grateful for my mom and all of her help, but I have to say that Eric was my hero, my knight in shining armor, the one thing that I couldn’t have made it through this labor without. He was absolutely incredible and I can’t say enough how thankful I am for all that he went through to support me through this. (as a sidenote, I found out later that when he and my mom would switch spots, Eric would update his Twitter status to note the progress. I love that guy!)
Just before midnight the nurse said I was to 9.5cm. That was such a relief after being stuck at 8cm for so long. The few contractions between there and 10cm were incredibly intense and it was almost unbearable to not be able to push, but it definitely helped to know that I was almost there. It wasn’t too long after that she told me I’d made it to 10cm and it was time to push. HOORAY! It’s hard to explain to someone who has never gone through it before but as hard as pushing is, it feels so much better pushing with those contractions than trying to hold back. Pushing feels productive and it’s helping to get the pressure off. I had so much amazing support there in the delivery room. Obviously my mom and Eric were still there, also my doctor – Dr. Julie Grover – who I have loved as my doctor, and my nurse Elizabeth and her assistant Lelani. They were all so positive and encouraging. Apparently very few women take a natural approach to childbirth at UVRMC so they were very excited about how well I was doing and getting through everything without an epidural. They did a great job of coaching me through when to push and how to push. I feel so blessed to have had such a caring and supportive team of people there with me.
After about an hour of pushing everyone started getting really excited because Samuel started crowning. Someone (I think it was Elizabeth but I can’t be sure at this point) went and got a mirror so that I could see the top of Samuel’s head starting to come out. I want to say that it was really cool, but in all honesty, it was really weird to see that. His head didn’t really look like a head, just matted hair on a gray thing. It was very helpful though because I could see that I really was almost there. It gave me a little bit more encouragement to get through the pushes that got me from there to getting him out. It was interesting to listen to everyone in the delivery room through those pushes. While I was pushing I would close my eyes really tight which meant I couldn’t see what was happening, but I could tell from the comments and pitch of everyone’s voices that Samuel was coming sorta partially out and you could hear their excitement sorta rise and then the almost disappointment when that particular push wasn’t the one that brought him into the world. That helped me even more because I knew how close I must be, and I hated disappointing everyone. Finally one contraction came and I just sorta felt like I absolutely had to get his head out on that contraction. Whether it was something biological or from the excitement in the room I just sorta decided that one was it. I had to work harder for those pushes than the other ones and I had to stick it out and push all the way through that contraction instead of giving up at the last part of the contraction, but then Samuel’s head came out! I’d love to say that I looked in the mirror and thought that he was beautiful and the most amazing thing ever, but in all honesty, he looked all slimy and gross and it didn’t really look like a baby. On the next contraction I had one big push for one shoulder and another big push for his other shoulder and out he came! They had Eric go cut the cord and then took him to clean him off.
It was cute to watch Eric because he was definitely a little bit dazed by what was going on and my mom had to remind him to take his camera to go get pictures, even though Eric is a fairly avid picture taker and we’d gotten that camera specifically for this event… well and all the events that will follow from it. My mom says it was also pretty cool to watch Eric’s face as Samuel was actually pushed out of me and just how excited and fascinated he looked. I’m really sad that I missed that (I was a little preoccupied :P) because I love those looks on Eric’s face. He is definitely the son of a doctor ;)
It was pretty easy sailing for me from there. The doctor sorta pulled gently on the umbilical cord and I pushed a little and the placenta came out (that was probably the weirdest feeling to have that all come out). I’d torn pretty badly so my doctor spent quite a while stitching me up. And yes, even after everything I’d been through I had a hard time not passing out when she was putting the shots in that had the anesthetic. Samuel’s 1 minute Apgar was a 7 and his 5 minute Apgar was a 9 (which are excellent scores in case you aren’t up on delivery lingo, a perfect score is a 10).
While they were cleaning him up they told me that he was 8lbs 11oz. It took a little while for that to process, my thoughts were something like “oh, ok cool. … wait… WHAT?!” I’d been pretty small throughout my whole pregnancy so I definitely wasn’t expecting to have such a big baby! They wanted him in the NICU for a little while because there was the chance that he had breathed in some of the meconium which can cause problems. So they cleaned him up and let me hold him for a minute before taking him to the NICU.
Eric was able to go with him so he left with Samuel and I stayed with my mom (for those of you who don’t know, Eric’s dad was a NICU doctor, so it wasn’t that strange of an environment for Eric to be in). My doctor finished stitching me up and then I was just left there with my mom. It was nice to just be able to rest, although I still felt like I ought to be having another contraction soon, that I was just resting between them. I did start to shiver which is pretty common after delivery. They got some blankets on me which definitely helped and I just rested.
I stayed in the delivery room for an hour after they finished stitching me up. The nurses came in every 15 minutes to push on my stomach to make sure that my uterus was contracting back to where it was supposed to be. The weird part was that every time they would push on my stomach I could feel huge gushes of blood squirt out of me. My mom encouraged me to sleep during that hour but I was pretty amped up after the whole experience… there was no way I was going to actually sleep just yet. But I did rest and I just felt so elated about what I had accomplished and that Samuel was actually born, I can’t quite describe that feeling but it was wonderful. It was kind of like a runner’s high compounded with the love for this new baby and appreciation for all of the help and support and a million other things all rolled into one. It was an awesome feeling and it was nice to just be able to lay there and drink it all in for a little while.
After that hour they helped me get out of bed and get cleaned up. Then they put me in a wheelchair to go visit Samuel in NICU before taking me down to the recovery room.
The nurses thought it was funny seeing Samuel in the NICU because they’re so used to having little premie babies… and in comes Samuel this 8lb 11oz behemoth baby! He was doing really well but they wanted to monitor him for a little bit longer. He has incredible muscle tone for his age and all the nurses kept commenting on it. Eric also told me that while the nurses were putting the EKGs on his chest he would pull them off! Not typical for a newborn baby to have that sort of coordination, but having seen this kid for a week now, I totally believe it. He has really strong hands and he seems to just love doing things with them. After visiting Samuel they took us down to the recovery room, checked my vitals again and it was time to sleep. It was around 4am when we were finally left alone to go to sleep.
One of the most interesting things to me was how rare it apparently is for patients to come in and not get an epidural. My nurses were so impressed that I was “going natural”. I don’t really consider myself to have really had a natural childbirth because I did take the Fentanyl. I’m not ashamed of that in any way, but I don’t feel like I can say I was all natural. I just didn’t take the epidural. But I think it’s sad that it’s so rare for women to actually have a natural laboring experience. I don’t mean that in a judgmental way, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with deciding to go with an epidural. However, it was an AWESOME experience to really be able to really feel the capacity of my body and mind in this way. It was really an exhilarating experience. Yes, it was hard, but not so awful as the horror stories I’ve always been told. I just feel like I’ve really accomplished something cool. I wish I could describe what I mean better but it’s really difficult to put into words what that experience was like and the feelings I have about it. I just wish more women could have that experience. It was truly empowering and I feel like I better understand the strength and capacity women have better than ever before. I’ve been asked if I would do it again, and I think I would, as much as I’m sure that upsets Eric. Granted, every labor is different and it’s totally possible that next time presents me with entirely different challenges and I change my mind. Like I said, I’m not hardcore, but it was an awesome experience and I don’t think I’d want to rob myself of that.
So, that’s the story of how Samuel was brought into this world. Sorry it’s so long, but I wanted all of the details for myself so that I could remember them later.