Here's me on Friday, July 9:
We went out for pizza, which I paid for with heartburn that kept me up most of the night. This turned out to be very unfortunate timing. On Saturday morning, I was seeing floating lights so Raj took my blood pressure for just in case since vision disturbances are a symptom of preeclampsia but it was fine and the headache I expected to follow them hit just as we were getting to the farmers market. I took some Tylenol with my crepe and then felt better in time to shop for produce. By afternoon I gave Raj a heads up that I was having cramps, but they really just felt like period cramps and could be early labor but were most likely false labor. I didn't think I'd mind if they were the real deal though. As much as I'd been hoping all that time that Josephine would arrive on time or late to give us more time to get settled in but by the Thursday before, I was starting to feel uncomfortable enough to be fine with her arriving at any time.
By around six or seven, they were starting to feel like maybe contractions that were just on the mild side so I started timing. They were pretty erratic so again I figured maybe they were Braxton Hicks. Raj grilled dinner and we ate outside, then went for a walk around nine, which got the contractions going both stronger and closer together. We decided around 10:30 that this might be it so we should try to get some sleep. I ended up getting up around midnight, then waking Raj up at 1:00 when my water broke. I called labor and delivery while he got dressed and finished packing and we were off. Right as we were driving into the parking garage, the leak of my broken water turned into a gush and Raj let me out to leave a large puddle on the sidewalk while he went and parked. I squished all the way through the hospital in slippery flip flops and a truly soaked maternity maxi dress that I'd wrung out in the street and then held up on one side. It had a hole in it already, so once I was given a gown, it went straight into the trash.
I was pretty bummed when they checked me in triage and said I was only dilated to 3cm. I'd been hoping to be most of the way to 10cm so we could have a speedy delivery. The nurses told me they were on until 7am (it was around 2 at this time) and I said I hoped to be delivering before they were off, but they didn't seem to think it was a realistic possibility. Then they spent I don't even know how long trying to get an IV into me. It took three nurses and four different spots in my wrists and elbows before one succeeded. (My IV came out during delivery and had to be put back in after, so it was five sticks in all.) I ended up with this rather impressive bruise from the failed attempt at my right wrist.
Not to worry, this is the only birth-related injury that will be pictured here.
Once that was done, I was taken to a labor and delivery room. I was checked again and was already at 6cm. They hooked me up to monitors for the baby's heartbeat and my contractions. I'd been really hoping to do intermittent monitoring, where they would only check the baby's heartbeat at intervals so I wouldn't have to be hooked up to a monitor the whole time and would be free to stand and walk. The contractions still didn't seem too terribly awful, but they were definitely more manageable when I was standing or sitting on an exercise ball than sitting or lying in bed. They were having a hard time getting the baby's heartbeat though so I kept being told I needed to stay on the monitor until they got 20 minutes of steady heartbeat. Then they weren't seeing movements from her, so I needed to get back into the bed so they could put in a probe that would attach to her scalp to monitor her heartbeat. Not the news I was hoping for since the contractions were getting noticeably more painful, so lying down sounded like a very bad idea. But it was clearly in the best interest of the baby. Back into bed I went.
This is when things got going. Quickly. When the next contraction hit, without realizing what I was doing, I started pushing. The doctor said I was fully dilated, but needed to wait on pushing until they could get the room converted and some more people in. Then apparently the monitor showed that the baby was in distress, so lots more people came in and I was told we needed to get her out NOW. I didn't really know what was going on, but did my best to follow directions (though for some reason I never did manage the chin to chest thing they kept telling me to do). I'd read that after labor, pushing can feel like a relief and I guess it did feel good to be doing something toward getting the baby out, but mostly it felt like working very hard to split my body in half. Somewhere in there, I got an episiotomy. Please notice how I'd had no pain meds to this point. Yeah, even with everything else going on, you notice an episiotomy.
At 4:42am Josephine arrived, sparing me from the emergency c-section that I'd apparently come about 30 seconds from having if she hadn't made her way out when she did. Thanks, baby.
She had to be taken by the pediatrics team to the warmer and I could only get glimpses of her between medical staff. I could definitely see at first that she looked quite blue. Then we finally heard a sound from her and gradually she got pinker. I kept asking Raj if she was ok and at some point in there told him he could leave me to go see how she was doing. Meanwhile I was delivering the placenta and getting stitched up without the benefit of a beautifully distracting baby on my chest.
They told us they needed to take Josephine to the NICU but would have her back to us before too long. Eventually the doctors and nurses all left and Raj and I were alone in the quiet delivery room. All of the labor and delivery, none of the baby. It was a very strange feeling. Why were we there again?
I'd told the nurses in triage that I intended to try to go without the epidural (something I told very few people ahead of time to spare myself all of the Oh, you just wait, you'll be screaming for it) but knew there was a possibility that I'd change my mind. They said they'd still have an anesthesiologist come and do the consent so I'd be ready to go in case I did want one. So while Raj and I sat alone in the delivery room, the anesthesiologist did come walking in and start his spiel. When Raj interrupted him to tell him I'd already delivered an hour before, the doctor pumped his fist and said "Yes!" He did congratulate us on his very happy way out of my room. So good thing I was prepared for an unmedicated birth.
(I prepared by doing not nearly enough of the Hypnobabies home study course I bought which I absolutely intend to complete before the next delivery in case it's not quite so speedy and by reading Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, which I very much recommend. The first half is stories of deliveries which are maybe not so helpful, but the second half talks a lot about staying calm during labor because fear produces tension which makes the pain worse and slows down dilation. I really kept this in mind and was able to become still and breathe through the contractions, which I think made the whole thing much less difficult. The nurse even commented about how calm I was when she asked if I was ok at one point and I said I was having a contraction. I realize though that I say this as a person who was in active labor for less than 12 hours, transition for a very brief amount of time, and pushed for only about 20 minutes. So your mileage may vary. Also, the quiet did not extend to the pushing phase when I sounded at the end of each push like Monica Seles trying to finish a long match.)
After an hour and a half, they brought our baby in and handed her to me. She latched on and nursed like a champ and we finally had our skin to skin time.
She had every bit of the full head of hair I was expecting, given the extent of my heartburn. It's hard to say yet who she looks like, though she does have her dad's coloring. At her last appointment, she was in the 30-something percentile for weight and 81st for height, so it looks like she's getting his build as well. She's already back above her birth weight and has almost certainly cleared 8 pounds. So far, she is a big fan of milk, being dressed, being swaddled (her dad's swaddle, not mine which she can typically get out of), being walked around, going outside, and cuddling. She is vehemently opposed to being without a diaper, being in a wet diaper, and waiting to eat.
We are very tired and feeding continues to be something we are working out (this will be its own post at some point) but are also completely in love with this little girl.
Welcome to the world, Josephine Lakshmi. We are so glad you're here.