Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Audrey's birth story

The weeks leading up to Audrey's birth were extremely stressful. Mom passed away on July 31 when I was 36 weeks pregnant, just 17 days before Audrey was born. I was having contractions on and off during that entire time, and when I felt the baby "drop" at 36 weeks on the weekend that Mom passed, I was pretty certain that I would not be making it to my due date.

At 37 weeks, I was having contractions every 5 minutes apart that were stopping me in my tracks but not enough to even call them painful- more that they just took my breath away. My midwife checked my cervix and I was 4 cm! I couldn't believe it, because I was not in active labor and it took many, many hours of hard labor to get to that point with Juliet. My midwife asked me to walk around the hospital for an hour and come back to check my progress. I progressed to 5 cm during that hour but was still not in active labor so we went home to wait.

And so we waited, certain that Audrey would be coming any night. I mean, who walks around at 5 cm dilated? My family kept joking that the baby was just going to fall out, or that I would be that woman who accidentally has their baby on the floor of a fast food restaurant ;) For one week, I had contractions every single night that registered as "very annoying" on the pain scale. I also had nausea and just the severe discomfort that comes from being late in pregnancy. Fortunately my midwife had prescribed me Ambien to sleep to deal with my grief for Mom, and that helped me get some rest.

In the very early morning hours of August 17, at 38 weeks 2 days, I woke up to an extremely strong contraction. I lie in bed waiting to see what would happen, not waking Gary up, because I didn't want to have another false alarm. By the third contraction, Gary had woken up to my moaning, and we both were 100% sure that our baby was coming that night. I got out of bed and tried to collect myself, putting clothes on and brushing my teeth, but the contractions were so strong already that I could barely do anything but lean over the counter and huff and puff my way through. Mom had taught me how to vocalize with very loud, low moans (sort of like a cow, truthfully) through my labor with Juliet, and I remembered that and used it to work my way through. Thank you, Mom, I know that you were with me.

Gary called my sister Christy to come over to care for Juliet (my Dad would later take over wen Christy went to work- he was a saint! My mom would be so impressed.) and we headed for the hospital. As we waited for Christy, I told Gary, "We have to go...NOW!", feeling that if we waited any longer we would be having an unintentional home birth! On the drive to the hospital, Gary ran 2 red lights (there were no cars as it was only 4 am) to get us there quickly!

We parked at the hospital, and as I got out of the car, I had another huge contraction that had me leaning against the car and moaning very loudly- so much so that a passing hospital worker tried to get us a wheelchair. I was able to walk in on my own, but was in tears and told Gary literally as we were walking through the doors, "Please don't be disappointed, but I want an epidural. It's too much." And so that became our birth plan ;)

We entered L&D triage and I was having such obvious labor signs (not able to lie down on the bed, moaning loudly) that they didn't even have us fill out any paperwork or any of that normal stuff- a nurse directed us straight to a Delivery room. I still couldn't sit down in a wheelchair, so I hobbled my way through. A male midwife was on staff, and he checked my cervix- I was at 7 cm! Wow. This was really going fast! About an hour and a half later, I was at 8.5 cm and eagerly waiting for the epidural. I was proud of myself for making it so far without any medication. Almost full progression! The contractions hurt so much. No one can properly explain this sensation, I think- it's the strongest, most primal force in the universe.

The anesthesiologist finally came in and administered the epidural. I sort of yelled at her, urging her to hurry up as she was going through the laundry list of cautions she is obligated to read before the procedure. "Yes, I know the risks...please, please hurry!!" Getting the epidural was no big deal in comparison to the contractions, and about 15 minutes later, I had the sweet relief of being numb. That is a hard thing for me to fully accept- that I preferred being numb to feeling my baby descend - but it's true. It felt great. Audrey continued to tolerate the labor well after the epidural (steady heart rate), which was my huge fear after Juliet's distress. My body continued to progress on its own, I just couldn't feel it, and within 2 hours I had reached full dilation- 10 cm.

It was a very busy morning in L&D- we heard several babies give out their first cry! - and our nurse and midwife were barely with me in the room because they were so busy. So when I felt the pressure and urge to push (even through the numbness of the epi), I called the nurse button and told her, "It's time to push!" The midwife on call, whose name I barely remember as it was so irrelevant to the experience, came in and checked me and sure enough, it was time! A male OB resident officially delivered Audrey after only 15 minutes of pushing. She was born at 10:01 am, just 6 hours after my labor began.

They told me to reach down to feel her head, and I got to hold her tiny, wet little head as she slid out of my body. There is nothing, nothing!, like the birth of your child. They placed her up on my chest and I just wept and wept with joy. She was perfect and beautiful and so tiny. She gave some sweet little cries and my sister Susan, who had joined us at the hospital a couple hours earlier, was able to record every moment for us as Gary and I enjoyed these first moments with this sweet gift of life.

These last months have been so hard and sad, but Audrey's birth was beautiful and perfect, and healed a part of me that I wasn't sure could ever be patched up. I love you, Audrey, and I just wish your grandma was here to see how beautiful you are.

(originally posted 8.24.11)

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