Adelaide turned two years old today. I thought it was time I finish writing her birth story. I consider this a work in progress, but I finally got the whole story out. Warning: it’s a long one, and it may be too much information for some.
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Our baby girl was due August 13, 2011. (For the story of our gender reveal check out this post.) At our 12-week ultrasound, the technician said she thought the baby was measuring an August 17 due date.
“August 17?” I asked. “That’s my birthday!”
The technician said she wouldn’t want to be laboring on her birthday, and Tim and I joked that I would never have a birthday again. From then on, the day would be baby’s day, not mine. My doctor decided to leave the due date as August 13 since it was only four days off from my original due date. And while I knew that a “due date” was just an estimate and that I could reasonably go any time two weeks before or two weeks after, I knew it was likely baby and I would have birthdays very close together.
Fast forward to July. My sister bought plane tickets to visit me for a week beginning August 14, the day after my due date. She just found out that she got a new job (yay!) and no longer had the flexibility to come whenever the baby arrived (boo!). I’ll admit I was nervous. I thought there was a good chance I’d go into labor while she was here, and I wasn’t sure I wanted another person around while I was laboring at home and waiting to go to the hospital. I also worried that the baby may be late and my sister would miss her all together. My sister assured me it would be okay. Even if there was no baby yet, we’d hang out, finish getting ready for her, and celebrate my birthday. As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry.
On Tuesday, July 26, I jokingly told Tim I thought the next Wednesday, August 3, would be a good day to deliver. My work had already hired a temporary worker to assist while I was out on maternity leave. I was supposed to start training her Thursday and Friday, July 28 and 29. I figured that by the following Wednesday, I’d have most all my top priority projects wrapped up. My parents were “on call” to drive out from Illinois whenever they got word of baby’s arrival. If she was born on August 3, my parents could come out the following week and still have a week here before my sister arrived on the 14th. I was born on a Wednesday, and August 3rd seemed like a nice day for a birthday. I had it all worked out in my mind.
Still, it was all said tongue in cheek. While at 37 weeks I knew I was technically “full term” and could go at any time, I still figured I’d be late. Even though both my sister and I were early, I had heard that most first-time moms don’t deliver until after their due date. So, when I went into labor in the middle of the night, around 2 am on Thursday, July 28, I totally wasn’t expecting it.
It’s so weird. Wednesday we were eating dinner at IHOP and looking at lamps for the nursery at Lowe’s, and then the next day we had a baby. She was here. No more planning. I didn’t have my hospital bag packed. I didn’t have my birth plan written out. I didn’t have a glider or breast pump. I didn’t have nursing bras or a diaper bag. Our house was a mess. I wasn’t yet organized. The nursery wasn’t complete. The dirty dishes were taking over the kitchen. We also had a maternity photo shoot planned for Sunday, July 31. I had been telling people for the last nine months that I was due in “mid August” and it wasn’t even August yet. Then, I became a mom.
I woke in the middle of the night with an intense urge to pee. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence. At 37 weeks pregnant I was regularly getting up in the night to use the bathroom – sometimes even twice in one night. Still, this sensation felt different – like, “wow, I must get to the bathroom now.” As I sat up and started to exit the bed, I ran my hand across the mattress to make sure that I hadn’t leaked or wet the bed.
When I walked toward the bedroom door, I felt a wetness in my panties. As I walked down the hall, I felt a trickle down my leg. Right before going to bed that night, I was reading about incontinence in What to Expect When Expecting. I even told Tim that a mutual friend of ours had recently confided in me her incontinence issues after giving birth. So, as I’m walking (very quickly at this point) down the hall, I’m thinking that I’m peeing my pants. Still half asleep, it was instinct to run to the toilet as quickly as possible. As I got to the doorway of the bathroom, I started to “leak” more and although I thought, “I should tighten my kegel muscles and try to stop it,” I was already to the toilet. There was a gush, but it all happened so fast that I wasn’t sure if it was my water breaking or just my bladder bursting with relief now that there was release. My panties were completely soaked.
I had heard that amniotic fluid smelled distinctive – sweet, not like the ammonia of urine. I smelled my panties, but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t tell what it was. At that point I thought, well, I won’t flush the toilet in case I need to come back and reference this liquid. I’ll just wait and see if I start to have contractions. I knew that few women actually have their water break before contractions – in our birthing classes they told us this was more of a TV sit-com phenomenon than true life. But, when talking about it with my mom in the weeks prior, she said it happened that way for her both times.
So, I went back to the bedroom, changed my underwear and crawled back into bed. I don’t even think Tim noticed I had gotten up. Then, almost immediately, I felt mild cramping in my lower abdomen, similar to period cramps. I knew I should relax, that I should try to go back to sleep because I could have a long day of laboring ahead of me. But of course, my mind was racing.
What? A July baby? What is today? July 28? Is July 28 even a Leo?
Our photo shoot! We were supposed to have maternity photos taken on Sunday.
And work! Oh, there’s still so much to do. Our temp was supposed to come in and train today. And all those invoices on my desk – how will they know how to process them? Who will set up the new budget spreadsheets?
I didn’t want to wake Tim. I wasn’t sure what was going on and there was no reason for us both to be awake and anxious. After about half an hour of lying in bed, I decided to grab my netbook laptop and come downstairs. Plus, I had to pee again already.
I opened my laptop and Googled “water breaking vs. peeing.” There were a few message boards that came up, but nothing that answered my question to my satisfaction. I then downloaded a contraction counter to my smartphone.
I wasn’t really sure if I was having full-fledged contractions at this point, and they definitely weren’t regular. I figured I’d go back upstairs and try to sleep again.
I may have dosed off briefly, but I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t even have my birth plan written out. After attending our Mindful Birthing class and doing lots of reading, I knew birth plans rarely went as planned. One of the midwives told me “they’re more like goals.” Still, I wanted to have something in writing that I could hand the nurse when we got to the hospital. I wanted something that said we wanted a low-intervention birth, that I intended to at least try for a natural, non-medicated birth with a midwife in the hospital’s birthing suite. I didn’t want to be tethered to a fetal heart monitor if it wasn’t medically necessary; I wanted to be able to walk around. I wanted in writing that I wanted my husband to cut the umbilical cord and that I wanted to hold my baby and try to initiate breast feeding before she was taken out of room – that I wanted her with me skin-on-skin as long as possible.
At one point (it all seems like the middle of the night to me), I got back up and went downstairs to type this up. I basically summarized everything in the above short paragraph, but on that night, while beginning labor, I just couldn’t concentrate enough to write it all out. Plus, the contractions were getting more and more painful. I realized that if the contractions were too painful to continue typing, it was probably time to wake up Tim.
By this time it was about 5:15am, around three hours after my water broke. I told Tim I thought I was in the early stages of labor, that I thought my water broke. He wasn’t as surprised as I thought he might be. He was just very matter-of-fact about it “alright.” We laid in bed together for a bit, but my contractions were getting more and more painful and it wasn’t comfortable for me to lie down anymore.
Tim got up and started looking for someone to cover his shifts that day. He took the dog out for a walk. That period is now a haze for me. I remember throwing a bunch of stuff in my backpack. I didn’t know how long I would be laboring at the hospital, so I packed things for both my time laboring and my hospital stay afterwards – my camera, my laptop, the yoga ball, a book to read, an outfit to change into, my journal, some snacks.
I was trying to following the 4-1-1 rule we learned in our birthing class: don’t go to the hospital until your contractions are four minutes apart. one minute long, for one hour. My contractions weren’t a minute long, but they were closer than four minutes. What did that mean? I was so confused. I remember going down to the basement bathroom and laboring on the toilet. I felt better there, and I didn’t feel anxious about leaking fluids when I was sitting on the toilet. I bounced on the yoga ball, I leaned against the banister and Tim pushed my hips together (a technique we had learned in class). I tried to envision each contraction as a wave coming in and out (I had read that somewhere), but I don’t think I was very successful. I was loud. I moaned with each contraction and didn’t care that it was fairly early in the morning and that we lived in a rowhouse with neighbors close on both sides. I figured they could hear me and hoped that they didn’t call the police for some kind of domestic disturbance.
I remember Matt Lauer being in the background as I know the TODAY show was on the TV. By 8:00am I had Tim call my midwife practice. They weren’t open yet, but there was an emergency line to call and leave a message. A few minutes later the on-duty midwife at the hospital called us back and Tim answered. I didn’t feel much like talking to her, but she wanted to speak to me. I told her I thought my water broke around 2:15am and since my water broke, she told me to come on in.
Tim went and pulled the car up in front of the house. I was not looking forward to that car ride. At this point, I was in a severe amount of pain, and I was wailing pretty loudly. I leaned the chair back in the passenger’s seat and braced my feet in front of me. The ride to the hospital didn’t have to be a long one – we didn’t live far from the hospital. However, it was morning rush hour. Then, Tim took a left when he should have gone straight.
“Where are you going?” I asked. “You should just go down Passyunk.”
He wasn’t thinking clearly, and we hadn’t previously discussed the most direct route to the hospital. We also hadn’t planned out the “drop off.” When we got to the hospital, he went straight to the Emergency Room drop-off when he should have turned and let me off at the main entrance. I didn’t want to wait for him to go around the block again, so I just had him pull over so I could get out and walk around the corner of the building. He went to park in the garage and said he’d meet me inside with all our stuff.
Having been to the hospital several times for classes and appointments, I knew there was often a line to get up to the reception desk where you had to sign in and get a pass to go inside. I walked directly to the font of the line and said, “I’m in labor and I need to go upstairs.”
The expression on my face must have looked very serious, because she just waved me on. “Third floor,” she said. I walked to the elevator and felt another contraction coming on. I was relieved there was no one else in the elevator. Then, right before the doors were about to close, a female doctor got into the elevator with me. I tried not to be too dramatic about my pain and purposefully didn’t “let loose” like I’d been doing at home and in the car. She immediately came over to see if I was okay. I could tell she was worried. I knew where I was going (I’d been on the hospital tour), and although she tried to get me to go the wrong way on the floor, I started walking toward the registration desk. “Okay, you clearly know more than I do,” she said. “Good luck.”
When I got to the desk, they were expecting me. I’ve heard stories about women having to wait in the waiting room or wait in the triage room for a long time. I was taken into the triage room, right as Tim arrived. They wanted me to pee in a cup and I tried, but I just couldn’t do it. The pain was all-encompasing.
I remember wearing a gown and laying in a hospital bed at one point. They checked me and said I was 5 cm and 100% effaced. “I guess it’s a good thing we had you come in,” the midwife told me. They asked if I wanted to deliver in the birthing suite. “That was the plan. I’d like to try if I can.” (If you have an epidural, our hospital doesn’t let you stay in the birthing suite, you have to be monitored in a standard hospital room).
A few contractions later, they checked me again. 7cm. Someone explained that most women increase a centimeter an hour, not a centimeter every 15 minutes. (Had it really been a half an hour?) Things were moving quickly.
Although I was told the birthing suite wasn’t available, the next thing I knew I was being wheeled up the elevator and into the birthing suite.
All modesty went out the window. I’ve had other soon-to-be-mothers ask me what to wear while laboring. Well, I guess you could wear a nice tank top or some other “laboring outfit,” but once in the birthing suite, I birthed completely naked. I think part of the reason was because when I first got into the room they asked me if I wanted to get into the bathtub. I had heard from friends that this relieved some pain, so I was really looking forward to getting into the water.
“If you feel like you need to push, let me know,” the midwife said. “We can’t let you have the baby in the water and if we do, I’ll get in a lot of trouble.” She said with a laugh.
I only lasted in the tub for a couple of contractions – sitting on my knees and leaning forward over the edge of the tub.
I remember the midwife trying to get me to trill my lips while I was mid-contraction, a way to relax and breathe. I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t get my lips to work. After trying a few times I remember saying, “that one’s not working – try something else.”
Next, I moved into the shower. Standing, with the water flowing over my back and leaning with both arms on Tim’s forearms, I felt better than I did in the tub. But we weren’t in there long either. The next thing I know, we were back in the main birthing suite pushing. I started out in the bed on all fours, many pillows stacked up underneath me for support. The nurse left to get me some ice and a drink of what I think was seltzer and cranberry juice. Tim was next to me the whole time, but the midwife was the one in command.
We moved to a birthing chair – a weird wooden chair with no middle. I pushed through a few contractions there as well. The midwife asked me if we had a named picked out. “Adelaide” Tim and I both said. “Adelaide.”
I believe we then moved back to the bed where I pushed on all fours again. I remember liking the bed better than the chair because at this point I was getting really tired and I could rest all of my body weight on the mattress. I can picture Tim there to my left with the drink and the ice saying supportive things.
“I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” I repeated. “Yes you can,” they all told me. “You ARE doing this.”
“I don’t feel good,” I said, not knowing what else to say. The swearing I belted when I was laboring at home had subsided in the company of strangers.
“In what way don’t you feel good?” my midwife wanted to know.
I could tell she was concerned that there might be something more than just the pains of a natural childbirth. “I’m just tired,” I said. “I just want to meet her.”
Although I’d heard it over and over that delivering laying on your back is counter-intuitive to how our bodies are built to birth babies, I found myself on my back. I guess I was technically sitting more than laying on my back. I was propped up by so many pillows that I was in an upright position. An intern held my left leg up near my chest. Tim held my right leg. I remember having a hard time keeping that left leg up while pushing through the contractions. They really had to hold my legs tightly to help give me some leverage.
I remember the midwife and nurse talking about all the hair they were seeing. “Oh she has a lot of hair. There’s so much hair.” They asked me to reach down and feel the top of her head. Yeah, it was pretty cool I guess, but at the moment, I wasn’t having it. I didn’t care about her hair and I wanted them to talk about something else.
I remember feeling as if the pushing took a really long time. However, in retrospect, Tim said it was only about 45 minutes or so. I just kept envisioning the moment I would meet her. “I just want to meet her. I just want to meet her,” I repeated to myself.
Then, on the final push Tim said, “Oh wow. Oh Wow. Oh WOW” – each time a little louder as he saw her head, then shoulders, then whole body emerge.
The nurse immediately placed her on my chest. Things at this point were a bit of a blur. We arrived at the hospital around 9am and just after noon, she was born. I believe my first words were, “It is a girl isn’t it?” still paranoid that the ultrasound had been wrong. The nurse lifted her back up to double check. “Yes, it’s a girl.”
She was beautiful and there was such a swell of emotion and relief.
Tim wanted to cut the umbilical cord and he did, but I wasn’t really “present” for that moment. I think for our next child, I’d like to delay the cutting and then when we’re ready, I want to make sure that I’m paying attention and present in the moment – the one down side of not having a doula or a written birth plan.
I held Adelaide for a bit and she found my breast. After a while (my memory loses track of time here), they took her to be weighed, checked her vitals and footprinted her. Tim took photos as I rested in bed across the room. Eventually they took her to get cleaned up and rolled in some lunch for me.
I was disappointed there was no photo shoot in the park, and I didn’t get the chance to train my temp at work. I felt guilty for leaving several things up in the air when I went on an earlier-than-expected maternity leave. I imagine I would have felt differently had I been scheduled to be induced and knew what day I would give birth, or if I had reached my due date and was more prepared that she could come any day. In many ways, I know I was lucky to have avoided the anxiety of being overdue. And the hospital staff made sure to tell me that most women would’ve been envious of my quick labor.
When we got home from the hospital, I missed being pregnant (at least parts of it), and I felt as if I didn’t get to properly say good-bye to that stage in the cycle. But, I had a new job. I was a mom, and I didn’t have time to think twice about it. I was doing it and trying to digest it all. In the days ahead, I tried to survive the sleepless nights, to sleep when she slept and to enjoy her bright eyes, many facial expressions and calming coos.
Born at 12:03pm, 7 lbs, 7 oz
The birthing suite at Pennsylvania Hospital