So we are home now, safe and sound, and loving snuggling with our little Clara! My parents are here and have been an immense help already – with dishes and laundry and cooking, and fixing things around here, and they’ve had their fair share of snuggles too. They notice a lot of things that I forget about on most days – like the clock that hasn’t worked since we got married and has read 9:15 for about 3 years now. And what’s even better – they replaced the batteries! 🙂
I know that from Joel’s updates to facebook and twitter the day she was born, it seems like she was here in no time at all. But actually, I went into early labor at about 4pm on Sunday while we were at the movie theater.
We figured it might be our last chance to go on a date and Joel, if you don’t know already, is an avid movie fan. Really, that doesn’t even do it justice, but that’s for another time. He had been wanting to see The Town, so off we went to the movie, with intentions of going to Target and Toys R Us later to finish up getting the last few things we needed for the baby. About halfway through the movie, my back cramped up so badly I could barely stand to sit in the seat for the rest of the movie. I thought it was just something I’d tweaked somehow – pregnancy had that effect on my back – but it seemed much more intense than anything I’d experienced so far. We managed to make it through the movie but I could barely walk when we left, so we just headed home instead of finishing our errands.
Little did we know that was our last chance.
Joel gave me a great back rub when we got home, and asked me if I thought it was back labor. No way, I said, it wasn’t in waves like the other contractions I’d had, and it was only on one side of my back. Ha.. looking back now, I’m pretty sure he was right.
We had a quiet evening at home, just enjoying our Sunday together, and about 11:00 that night, I started having some contractions again. They started out pretty mild, and I didn’t say anything to Joel about it. I didn’t want another false alarm, another hopeful night spent wondering if our daughter would make her appearance soon. When they became pretty regular and a bit stronger, they were 11 minutes apart, and then 5 minutes in no time at all. I woke Joel up and asked him to help me time them… poor guy had just fallen asleep. After about half an hour of 5 minute apart contractions, then 4 minutes… Joel said in no uncertain terms that we were going to the hospital. So we grabbed my bags, and off we went.
It was raining, had been most of the evening, and even though I know Joel wanted to drive 150mph to get us there, he did really well at going a reasonable speed to get me there. I didn’t want to walk in by myself (I know, call me crazy or dumb or whatever, but I just did not want to be alone), so we parked and Joel helped me walk in to the hospital, stopping every now and then for my contractions to pass. He tried to call our doctor, but even the answering service wasn’t picking up for some reason. Awesome, right? So they weren’t really expecting us, but there we were anyway. They sent us up to triage and there a nurse checked us out and when our doctor arrived, of course it was the one doctor in the practice who I had not met. She was younger than me, fresh off her residency at Duke, and had just started at the practice 2 weeks ago. I should have known that it wasn’t going to be a good experience, when the first thing she did was ask Joel to read my chart. No really. She said, “Hmm, I wonder what this means… Do you know what this means? It looks like you declined to see a high-risk specialist at some point?”
Umm, no. I was never told at any point that my pregnancy was high-risk. Nor would I have declined to visit a high-risk ob if I’d needed to. I asked if she meant the cardiologist visit, but she was positive that wasn’t it. She was sure though, that I had declined treatment, and said she would figure it out. Hey, I’m sorry… aren’t you the doctor? Aren’t you supposed to know what the notes on the chart mean? And shouldn’t you NOT ask me or my semi-panicky husband?
She was nice enough, but despite the fact that my contractions were now 2 minutes apart and getting stronger and stronger, she didn’t think I was far enough along to admit to the hospital. She had us walk the loop of the maternity ward for an hour and then checked again. Still not enough progress – even at 3cm, 1.5 to 2 minutes apart and having to stop talking and walking every time a contraction came. She sent me home (HOME?!!?) with an Ambien and instructions to try and get some sleep. I was skeptical, and asked if I would really be able to sleep, to which she responded – “Oh yeah, you should be able to sleep fine. I think you’re just in early labor.” Ummm, ok…
So I took the Ambien and we went home. Joel was furious. I was mad, but in too much pain to be able to do or even think much about it. By the time we made it home (around 3am), my parents had made it all the way to Raleigh, unloaded tons of food into our freezer (my mom rocks!), and were about to come to the hospital. Turns out it was a good thing they were there, because the Ambien did NOT make me sleep. It just made me loopy. It didn’t slow down contractions, dull them, or anything of the sort.
I tried sitting and laying on various pieces of furniture, but just couldn’t make it through the contractions that way. So I walked. Or, rather, I tripped over myself. I staggered. I stumbled. I must have looked completely drunk.
I stumbled around our downstairs all night long, leaning against a wall, a table, or a door frame every time another contraction came – still every 1.5 to 2 minutes, and still getting stronger. Until 8am, when my doctor’s office opened. I called – well, really my mom called – and told them what was going on. They told me to come in right away, they would see me immediately. And they did. I saw my favorite doctor, who basically took one look at me and had me wheeled right over to the hospital and directly into a delivery room.
There, my nurse, Ann, got me all set up on the monitors and with an IV for fluids. Luckily, by this hour, there was a new doctor on call, and she did not suggest an Ambien and another ride home. I was 4cm, still with contractions every 2 minutes or so, and in more pain than I’ve ever felt in my life. Joel asked me what it felt like… it’s so hard to explain. It’s really not like anything else I’ve ever felt. A special kind of pain, reserved just for this miracle that was about to happen.
After a couple hours, the anesthesiologist came in to give me an epidural. Someone asked me if that hurt. Not really. They numb your back before they give you the real epidural. I felt a little pressure, maybe a small pinch, but that was really it. And then, within 10 minutes, everything started to feel amazing. All the contractions pretty much disappeared, and I felt great. The doctor came back in to check on me, and I was 6cm. She broke my water, and told me that I had a really poopy baby. Baby girl had passed meconium, so in order to avoid any complications, she said they would call in someone from the nursery and a respiratory specialist to be on hand when I delivered. They basically wanted to keep her from inhaling any of that nasty stuff, which apparently can cause some respiratory issues or infection if she did. After that, everyone pretty much cleared out, and I was actually able to drift off to sleep for a while.
As a side note: I have a lot of friends who have opted to go the natural route for their childbirth experiences. More power to you. I had a lot of respect for that decision before, and after my experience, I respect it even more. My decision to have an epidural had more to do with being afraid that without one, I may not want to have any more kids. Joel and I want probably a couple more – we’ve discussed adopting, and will probably do that at some point as well (another post) – but also want at least one more of our own… I didn’t want to look back on Clara’s birth and think – “No freakin’ WAY, I’m not doing that again!”
At this point I completely lost track of time, but I remember they gave me an oxygen mask at some point, because the baby’s heart rate was dropping pretty significantly during my contractions, which, apparently were pretty strong at that point. I was blissfully oblivious.
When the doctor came back maybe around 3:30 or so, she told me that because of the baby’s heart rate dropping, that they might have to give me pitocin to get things moving… but then she checked and said, “Oh! I can see hair!” So thankfully, no pitocin, and then it was time to push. The doctor got really intense and yelled at me a lot, but I was kind of oblivious. I think Joel gets a big kick out of that part of the story – you should ask him to tell you sometime.
I probably pushed for about 10 or 15 minutes (again, my timetable is a bit skewed), and then there was a baby on my belly! She was almost completely brown and even the doctors said she looked like she’d been swimming in a mud puddle. And she didn’t cry right away, which I guess, in cases like this, is actually a good thing, since she didn’t inhale any of that meconium. The whisked her away over to the corner where they suctioned out her nose and mouth and got her all cleaned up.
After the doctor got me cleaned up and we got to snuggle for a few minutes with our little Clara, my parents came in to meet her for the first time. My mom acted as the photographer for the day, since I was in no condition to be doing so. She got pictures of them measuring and weighing Clara and doing the APGAR scores (8 and then 9 – for my sister, who is in med school and wanted to know) I think, but I can’t find them anywhere. Mom, if you have these, could I get them next time I see you?
Then they moved us into a sweet corner room with lots of windows that would be our home for the next couple of days. Here are just a few shots my mom got…
I think she’s just beautiful! She looks a lot like her 3-D ultrasound, which still kind of blows my mind.
I think the funniest thing was when people kept asking us what her name was during and even after delivery. We hadn’t told anyone, so it was a little strange to say it out loud. Every time someone asked, I looked at Joel, as if to ask if it was ok to tell them. Silly, I know.
Clara is a good baby – quiet for the most part, not terribly fussy. Noises don’t seem to bother her – she’s been subjected to the dryer buzzer going off, the tv noises, cheering for football games, things falling off the walls, the vacuum cleaner, and none of it seems to really phase her. It’s awesome.
She makes the most amazing facial expressions. I’ve never seen so many on a baby before…
I have a lot more pictures – but really, most of them are from my iPhone, because I didn’t have the energy to pick up the camera. I’m sure I will be sad about that one day, but I am thankful for technology that let me document our first days with Clara in some way.
I have so many more things to share. Baby product reviews, stories, pictures… I promise I’ll be back with all that soon. For now, I am enjoying cuddling with my little Squishy, and soaking in all this fleeting newborn baby time.
She is precious, and my heart is full.
We are learning more every day. How to be parents. What to do when she cries. What those little faces mean. How to get a shower during naps. How to sleep when the baby sleeps (even if you’re not a napper). How to fit in normal, every-day activities.
I hope to add to that list: How to fit back into pre-pregnancy clothes. How to get a full night’s sleep. How to look like a normal human being, not a sleep deprived new mom.
All in good time. Right?