Joshua’s Birth Story

On Wednesday, March 10 at 11:30 pm, I woke up in a puddle.  It was my birthday, and it was also the day after the baby was due.  I got up and went to the bathroom, then came back to bed.  “Ed, I think my water broke.”  Ed sprung out of bed, eyes wide open.  We decided to call the doctor’s office.

Dr. C. was on call, and he suggested that, since I was not yet having contractions, we should stay home and try to get some rest.  We called our moms to let them know our plan.  Ed and I talked excitedly about our baby’s arrival.  By this time tomorrow night, he should be here, and we’ll be home by Saturday!  We then tried our best to get some sleep.

At 4:30 am, contractions woke me up.  Staying in bed was uncomfortable, so I decided to get up and take a shower.  The contractions were irregular, mild and far apart.  I finished packing the bags for the hospital and ate some toast.  We called our moms at around 6:00 am and decided they should come over. 

Dr. C. called at 8:00 am and asked for an update.  We decided that we should go to our previously scheduled appointment for the non-stress test and biophysical profile (ultrasound) at 9:00.  In the mean time, Ed and I started to time the contractions, which were between 3 and 5 minutes apart, lasting for between 15 and 45 seconds.  We left for the doctors office, prepared to be sent into the hospital.

At the office, we saw Dr. A.  She monitored the baby’s heart rate and my contractions for 20 minutes, and confirmed that all was well.  Dr. A. then examined me and said that I was 1 cm dilated, and that she could feel that the amniotic sac was still intact.  She explained that sometimes the chorion (outer membrane) breaks and releases fluid, while the amnion (inner membrane) remains unbroken, keeping the baby surrounded by fluid.  This meant that I wasn’t under any pressure to deliver under a certain timeline, since my water didn’t really break.  An ultrasound confirmed that the bag of water was still intact and that the baby was doing well.

Dr. A. sent us home, explaining that while my contractions were occuring 3 minutes apart, they were still mild and since I was not dilating, I was not in active labor.  I was crushed when she said I was still in pre-labor or very early labor, and told me it looked like it would be a while before we should head to the hospital.

So, we headed home.

When we arrived home at around noon on Thursday, I burst into tears.  I was so disappointed and discouraged to hear that it would be a while before our baby arrived.  Our moms had gone to the grocery store and made us lunch, then we all did our best to rest as advised by Dr. A.  I napped on and off on the couch, but eventually my contractions got too strong to rest through. 

Ed brought the rocking chair down from the baby’s room, and I rocked through contractions.  I watched “Charlotte’s Web” and dreamed about our little boy while singing along.  I walked around the house to help bring on contractions, then I decided to take a shower to help ease the pain. 

Ed helped me into the shower, but I found it to be more painful than helpful.  Standing up made my contractions come on more strongly, and the confines of the shower didn’t allow me to move around much to work with them.  I really wanted to take a bath, but Dr. A. had advised me to skip the bath, even though my membranes were technically still intact.

I went back downstairs and continued to walk around the house with my mom or Ed for support during contractions.  I was determined to keep labor moving along.  My contractions picked up in intensity, still coming every 3 minutes and lasting for 45 seconds to a minute.  At around 5:30, we decided to go to the hospital.  Our moms came along with us and excitedly called our dads and a few other relatives.

At the hospital, I refused a wheel chair.  I’m not sick, I’m in labor!  We went to the labor and delivery floor and were admitted to the Early Labor Lounge, where a nurse hooked me up to a fetal monitor for 20 minutes and checked my progress.  Laying in bed during contractions was the worst, but I was happy to know it would soon be over and I’d be able to move around again. 

Dr. R. was on call and came in to speak to me.  He explained that, while I was clearly experiencing regular contractions that were more intense than earlier, I was still only 1 cm dilated.  He then presented us with two options: stay or go home.  If we chose to stay, I’d be able to walk the halls of the hospital to move things along.  If we chose to go home, I’d be able to try to rest and walk around at home.  Dr. R. said, knowing that I wanted a natural birth, I should go home and do my best to rest, because being admitted to the hospital too soon would increase my chances of interventions, including a C-section. 

The choice for us was clear, but also crushing: go home.  Again.

On the way home from the hospital, I realized that I was fighting the contractions, tensing up instead of letting them do the work that needed to be done.  I needed to make more of an effort to relax and give in to labor.  Ed was disappointed and tense, too.

When we got home, I decided to take a bath even though my doctors said they’d prefer I take a shower.  My water wasn’t broken and I knew it would relax me, so I got in the hot tub.  Meanwhile, our moms fixed some snacks.  Ed brought up a sandwich, a big glass of water and a popsicle, and I ate in the tub.  The warm water helped to relax me for a little while, but then laying on my back in the water got to be too painful.  I tried to get into different positions, but it was hard to maneuver with my big belly and regular contractions. 

Ed and I wanted to try to get some sleep, so we got into bed.  I figured I could lay on my side and try to relax and let go with the contractions.  Staying still proved to be uncomfortable, so I let Ed sleep and got up to go downstairs.

Our moms helped me breathe through contractions as I rocked in the rocking chair.  They both had natural births and studied Lamaze, so we tried different breathing techniques to get through each contraction.  They counted for me as I breathed in and out, and eventually they decided to start timing contractions.  I was so tired that I’d doze for the minute or two between contractions, then wake up as each one started.

At around 1 am, my contractions were much more intense.  I found it really difficult to breathe through them, crying out as I exhaled.  After doing our best to relax, breathe, and rest in between for another hour or so, we decided it was time to go to the hospital.  I was happy Ed had gotten some sleep, because I wanted him to be rested to help me during active labor.

The ride to the hospital was so uncomfortable.  I couldn’t move, thanks to the seatbelt, and I had contractions coming every 2-3 minutes.  Ed counted to help me pace my breathing, but it was really hard to stay focused.  When we got to the hospital, I happily got into a wheelchair and Ed pushed me up to the Early Labor Lounge. 

We saw Dr. R. again, my contractions and the baby’s heart rate were monitored for 20 minutes, and we learned that I was finally dilating.  My worst fear was being sent home for a third time, so I was very happy to hear that I was 3 cm dilated and they would admit me to Labor and Delivery.

We walked to Labor and Delivery and met our nurse.  Nurse A. was young, very sweet and calm.  She helped me get changed and settled into bed to monitor my contractions for 20 more minutes.  She brought us juice to drink, and explained that I could take a shower, rock in the rocking chair, use a birthing ball, or walk around to cope with contractions.  After the monitoring was done, I decided to try a hot shower.

Ed helped me into the shower, but standing up during contractions made me so tired.  I decided to get out of the shower and head to the rocking chair.  I rocked back and forth through contractions and drifted to sleep in the minute or so between them. 

Nurse A. continued to make sure that I was the most comfortable I could be.  She was supposed to monitor the baby’s heart rate every hour, but instead of making me get into bed she would bring over the fetal monitor and find his heart rate in whatever position I was in.  She’d hold the sensor on my belly for a few minutes, then decide he was doing fine and stop the monitor.  I was very thankful not to have to get back into bed and not to have the monitor strapped to me.

I moved to the birthing ball and Nurse A. showed me how to rest my head on the bed and try to get some sleep while rocking on the ball.  I stayed like this for a while, then Dr. R. came in to check my progress.  I’m not sure what time it was, maybe around 4 or 5 am on Friday.  I was dilated 4 cm, only 1 cm since they admitted me hours earlier.  Dr. R. suggested rupturing my membranes to help speed up the labor, and we discussed it for a little while before I gave permission.  I was concerned that the cord could move in front of the baby’s head if he artificially ruptured my membranes, but Dr. R. assured me that the baby was at zero station, in line with my pelvis and that the cord wouldn’t move between his head and my pelvis.

Dr. R. broke my water, and I realized just how much fluid there was! I couldn’t believe it, it felt like bucket after bucket of fluid.  After monitoring the baby’s heart for a little while, I got back in the shower.  Again the shower was uncomfortable, and the contractions had greatly increased in intensity since the cushion of the amniotic fluid wasn’t there anymore.  I got out of the shower and back into the rocking chair, which continued to be the most comfortable place for me.

A little while later, we realized there was a huge puddle of fluid under the chair, since the amniotic fluid continued to leak.  Nurse A. cleaned it up and changed my socks, since they were completely drenched.  It would have been funny, but the contractions and exhaustion had taken away my sense of humor.  Nurse A. spoke to me about breathing during contractions.  She explained that my crying wasn’t the most effective way to vocalize, and it was fighting the contractions.  She showed me how to make a tone for a sound as I exhaled, and I tried but it was difficult not to cry out.

At this point, I started to consider getting medical help with the pain.  I hadn’t really slept since Wednesday at 11:30 pm, and now it was Friday morning.  I had handled the pain of the contractions for a long time, but I was so tired.  My fear was that when it finally came time to push, I wouldn’t be able to push the baby out.  I didn’t want to end up with a C-section.  I spoke to Nurse A. about my options, and I could tell that Ed wanted me to get something for the pain.  Ed and I talked about it privately, and he encouraged me to do it.  He was scared and felt helpless.  It was a very hard decision, one that I was happy I’d researched earlier so I knew that the epidural was what I wanted, since it wouldn’t cross the placenta to the baby’s bloodstream like the narcotics would. 

We called Nurse A. back into the room, and I asked her to get Dr. R. to check my progress again, since they checked my dilation as little as possible to avoid infection.  I wanted to know if breaking my water had helped to speed up the process.  I decided that if I hadn’t yet gotten to 7 cm, I was going to get the epidural.  I needed to be able to rest before I pushed.

Dr. R. came in and checked my dilation.  I was at 6 cm, not yet in transition, the hardest part of labor.  I was afraid to get the epidural and get the IV, but I knew it was the best choice for me to get the rest I needed.

At 7 am on Friday, I decided to get the epidural.  Nurse A. hooked up the IV and called the anesthesiologist.  Though her shift ended, Nurse A. stayed until the epidural was in place.

When the anesthesiologist came into the room, I was scared.  Nurse A. explained that I couldn’t move while she was putting in the epidural, even if I had a contraction, but that they would wait to start until right after I had a contraction.  I imagined being paralyzed for a moment, but the next contraction convinced me I definitely needed the epidural.

They asked our moms to leave the room, and positioned Ed facing me so he couldn’t see my back, which was probably for the best.  As the anesthesiologist talked to us about the procedure, and asked where we were from.  It turned out that she lived in our town and knew my family’s farm.  She told us about her favorite pie and I immediately felt at ease with her.  She numbed my back, then inserted the epidural, which I couldn’t feel.  My biggest concern was that I would be totally numb, but that wasn’t the case at all.

Within minutes, I felt my contractions ease.  My legs got a tingley, pins and needles feeling, but they weren’t numb.  I could still move my legs, and I could still feel the wetness of the amniotic fluid dripping.  Over the course of 20 minutes or so, my contractions go easier and easier.  Nurse A. said goodbye and Nurse M. introduced herself, along with the nursing student shadowing her, Nurse H.  I drifted off to sleep.

I woke up about an hour later, with Ed, our moms, Dr. R. and Dr. P. standing over me.  I was a little afraid that something was wrong, but Dr. R. was just saying goodbye.  Dr. P. was starting her shift and would be delivering our baby, which made me happy since I liked her better anyway.

Dr. P. told me to relax and keep resting, that it would be time to push before I knew it and that I needed strength then.  She said she’d check my progress at noon, and I should try to sleep more until then.

We all slept on and off, with Nurse M. and Nurse H. bringing anything we needed.  I could only have ice chips now that I had the epidural, but I was so tired that it didn’t matter.  Our moms remarked that they were a little bored, since they had been working so hard with me to get me through each contraction, and now that I was sleeping they had nothing to do.  Ed slept in the chair next to my bed, happy to be relieved from his role as coach for a little while.  Nurse H. came to say goodbye and wish me luck, as she had to go to class.

At noon, Dr. P. came in to check my progress.  I was 9 cm dilated and 90% effaced.  The baby was still at zero station and was turned to the side.  I was disappointed that it wasn’t time to push yet, but I knew it would come in time.  Dr. P. and Nurse M. helped me turn on my side and elevated my bed, to help gravity move the baby.  Nurse M. explained that pushing could take from one to three hours, and I half-joked that the way this labor was going it would probably take four. 

Dr. P. came back to check on me an hour later.  She said I was 10 cm dilated but still hadn’t completely effaced.  Not time to push yet.  At this point, I started to feel contractions again.  Dr. P. and Nurse M. explained that they were letting the epidural wear off so I would be able to push.  Though the contractions were uncomfortable, they weren’t painful.

Dr. P. said that I was fully dilated and effaced at 2:00, but the baby had turned too far to the other side and was still at zero station, not dropped enough for me to push.  So, I turned onto my other side and continued to wait.

About a half hour later, I started feeling the urge to push.  I told Nurse M. and she went to get Dr. P.  The baby was still high, but they decided that if I felt the urge, it must be time to push!

I started pushing at 2:50 pm on Friday.  Joshua’s birth began at 11:30 pm on Wednesday night when my pre-waters broke, and after all that time, I was determined to push him out.  I’ve never physically worked harder at anything in my life.

I grabbed my legs, tucked my chin into my chest and pushed.  Ed counted for me, and when he got to 10 I wanted to keep on pushing.  After all that time waiting and breathing, it felt so good to finally do something.  After my first contraction of pushing for three counts of 10, Dr. P. walked out of the room.  I was crushed, imagining pushing forever.  What I didn’t know was that she went to get her student, because she didn’t want her to miss the birth.

Ed and Nurse M. helped support my legs while I pushed, and my mom and Ed’s mom watched from the side of the room.  After my second contraction pushing, Dr. P. commented that I had made great progress pushing him down.  I was so happy to finally hear that I was making progress!

After another push, Dr. P. said “You have an awesomely wide pelvis!” I couldn’t help but laugh and reply “I got it from my mom!” Everyone laughed and agreed that the delivery room is probably the only place where that’s a compliment.

Between contractions, Ed patted my face with a cool towel and gave me ice chips to crunch on.  I pushed with each contraction for at least three counts of 10.  Sometimes four pushes, sometimes five, depending on how long the contraction lasted.  Sometimes I didn’t stop pushing at 10, but kept on pushing for as long as I could.  Sometimes I pushed between contractions.  Dr. P. told me to do what felt right.

Dr. P. said “He’s got a lot of hair!” and proceeded to make it into a mohawk before his head was even out.  I’ve heard she always does that with babies with lots of hair, it’s her trademark of sorts.  It made me so relaxed that Dr. P. was so friendly and felt comfortable joking around.  This wasn’t an emergency; there wasn’t any rush.  But still, I wanted to meet my baby!  Dr. P. explained that his head would be out already if she gave me a big episiotomy, but she wasn’t going to do that.  At that point, we realized the baby was going to be very long.  His head was almost out and his feet were still up by my ribs.

After a few more pushes, his head was out.  Dr. P. suctioned his nose and mouth, and then I pushed out his shoulders with the next contraction.  His body came right out, and they placed him on my chest.  He was born at 4:01 pm, after just over an hour of pushing.

There wasn’t any awkward silence.  The baby was screaming before he even got to my chest, and I was so thrilled to see him! Ed cut the cord, and the room filled with tears, laughs, and cameras.  He peed on me almost immediately.  We were so thrilled to finally meet our little boy.  Ed and I named him Joshua Daniel.

Dr. P. and Nurse M. guessed he would weigh almost 9 lbs, but we wouldn’t find out until later.  After I got a couple of stitches that I didn’t even notice, Nurse M. kicked everyone out of the room so Ed and I could bond with Joshua.  I was so thirsty, so she snuck me some cranberry juice with the provision that I sipped it slowly.  She also brought Ed some ginger ale.  She helped me position Joshua so I could nurse him. 

After about an hour, we moved to the postpartum room.  Nurse M. settled me into the room while Ed went with Joshua to the nursery.  The nurses there weighed Joshua and showed Ed how to bathe him and put him in a diaper.  Ed and Joshua came into the room shortly and announced that Joshua weighed 9 lbs. 8 oz. and was 22 1/4 inches long.  We were all surprised what a big boy he was!

Ed, Joshua and I spent the next two days in the hospital, then we got to come home.

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