In the middle of the night on February 28th I woke up with abdominal pain. I was having a contraction, but the pain did not go away for nearly and hour and my abdomen was also tight the entire time. I was also a little worried that the placenta might be tearing away. I called my midwife and she said I could come into the hospital if I was worried.
I figured I was not actually in labor, but we went into the hospital for testing and monitoring. Of course, as soon as we were headed to the hospital, my pain went away completely. But I decided to go in anyway. I’m glad I did. My urine test came back normal, and the baby was fine. I explained to the nurse how I had been having a lot of contractions, some pretty uncomfortable, but nothing regular. The nurse checked my cervix, and said I was only 1-1.5 cm dilated, which surprised her considering how many contractions I was having. She was in contact with my midwife over the phone, and the midwife suggested giving me a shot of morphine and phenergan to stop the contractions for a while so I could rest. The thought was that the shot might give my body a chance to “reset” itself, and that when the contractions returned they would become more regular and more effective. So I got the shot, and soon after we returned back home.
For nearly a day, I had hardly any contractions, and the few that I did have were much milder. March 1st and 2nd, the contractions started getting more intense again, but still spaced hours apart. By this time it was getting really hard to wait, and I was pretty much a hormonal mess waiting for things to happen. I was so ready, and quite frankly amazed that I was still pregnant at this point.
On the morning of March 3rd, though, I noticed a marked difference in my contractions. I had only two or three that morning, but they definitely felt harder than they ever had before, especially in my tailbone area. I was fairly certain labor was starting, though it would still be a while before it was time to head to the hospital, and I made sure to have Nick load most of our stuff in the car before he left for work at his parents’ house. I spent the morning at home with the boys, making sure I spent some quality time with them. After lunch, we, too, headed to “Nana’s house” as we had all been invited over for a family dinner to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday.
My in-laws have a treadmill in their basement. I had had several more contractions by this point. I decided to walk—slowly—on the treadmill for a little while, thinking that if I did something rhythmic with my body, it might help the contractions to become more rhythmic, too. I walked from around 3 to 3:30. The contractions continued to come closer together, but I did not officially start timing them until around and after a half-hour of timing they were regularly 5 minutes apart. I called my midwife a little after , and she said to head in. I ate a little dinner, careful not to overeat. Nick ate some dinner, too. But I was ready to go before he was, and he couldn’t help chatting with his family while they all ate. I knew we needed to get to the hospital soon, though, so I could get started on the antibiotics for the Group B Strep, and I finally said to Nick, “All right, you’ve got five minutes and then I’m driving to the hospital myself.”
By , we were headed to the hospital. It was a half-hour drive to the hospital where my midwives practice (and the only hospital in the valley that provides a water birth tub, which I wanted). We got checked in, met our nurse, and soon I was on my first round of antibiotics. The contractions were getting a little harder by this time, and I especially felt them as I was sitting in the bed hooked up to the IV. I was glad when the first round was over and I was free to walk around. As long as I was moving, the contractions weren’t as bad. Nick and I took a walk together for a while, and back in our room he read Harry Potter out loud between contractions. By this point, I really had to concentrate during contractions, moaning and swaying through the pain.
When I finally let my nurse do an internal check (she wouldn’t call my midwife in until I was at least 3 cm), it was close to . Through no fault of hers, this nurse had massive hands (she was kind of “masculine” all around), and was not very gentle, either. Fortunately, she said I was 3 cm and she called my midwife.
While my midwife was on the way to meet with me, I used the bathroom and noticed some “bloody show” which continued to show through the rest of labor. Nick and I had a nice visit with my midwife, chatting about this and that between contractions. My midwife commented that I seemed pretty “chipper” for a woman in labor; she also commented on what I good job I was doing managing my contractions.
The midwife left for home around to get some sleep (she lived only 5 minutes away), and encouraged Nick and I to get some sleep, too (or at least rest as much as possible, in my case). Before she left, though, she did another check of my cervix (because I preferred she do it rather than the nurse again—ouch): 5 cm and 90% effaced.
I laid down and rested between contractions; the nurse also set up the waterbirth tub during this time. Nick slept, but after a half-hour of laying down, I felt like I needed to be moving again to manage the pain. I also ate some during this time. The nurse warned me that I’d probably be throwing it back up later (I never did—so there!). But I was listening to my body, and my body was telling me to eat. And drink.
The nurse came in around to administer the second dose of antibiotics, and I rocked in the rocking chair, still moaning through contractions, while I was hooked up. After that, I decided to try resting in the bed a little more as I was very sleepy. Eventually, though, the contractions were too strong again and I had to move.
Nick had been sleeping for a couple hours at this point, but eventually I had to make him get up as I was finally starting to experience some back labor in my spine. I would lean over a chair through a contraction while he pressed on my spine to ease the pain. We did this through a few contractions, when the nurse came in and saw what we were doing and said, “It’s time to fill up the tub.” So she got started on that. She had already told me earlier that I shouldn’t get in the tub until I was at least 8 cm, but when she asked me if I wanted her to check me yet I put it off for a while longer, remembering the previous experience.
After a very short while, though, I really wanted to get in the tub, so I let the nurse check me around . When she said I was 6 cm I wanted to scream—but I didn’t. She said it was good progress, but I was just upset that I couldn’t get in the tub yet!
After that, Nick and I worked through the contractions, and I just focused mentally on relaxing and dilating as quickly as possible. An hour later, I asked to be checked again and thank goodness I was 8 cm! I got in the tub, and the nurse went to call my midwife back in. It was in the morning.
The relief after getting in the tub was incredible. I knew being in the water was supposed to ease labor pain, but I still didn’t expect it to help this much. The back labor went away completely, and the contractions now resembled what they had been in earlier labor. Easiest transition ever.
I stopped paying attention to the time at this point, and just allowed myself to relax and enjoy myself before the pushing started. I had Nick sit in a chair with his lap accessible for me to lean on, since there wasn’t much of a lip on the tub. Sometimes I semi-squated with my feet together in front of me, and sometimes I knelt with my knees apart (like doing the splits), whatever felt most comfortable and kept my pelvis more open so the baby could feel free to move down.
My midwife came in, and we all chatted for a while. As the baby moved down and turned in preparation for birth, I could actually feel him, and my midwife said she could see the bulge on my back (because the bag of waters was still intact) moving down. My midwife had a bucket of ice water in which she was soaking washcloths to place across the back of my shoulders to keep me cool.
The contractions got more intense again and the back labor returned, though still not nearly as bad in the water as it had been out of the water. I started pushing, but was clearly making little progress with my bag of waters still intact. My midwife got an amnio hook and during contractions tried several times to break the bag. It was difficult, though, and took several tries. When the bag finally broke, though, the water rushed out in a roar, and I roared, too. The pressure was incredible. I pushed through a couple more contractions and could finally feel the baby reaching the crowning position.
I had to turn around at this point, which was difficult as there wasn’t a whole lot of time between contractions. But I managed with some help, and then the really hard part began.
I can’t say for certain how many times I pushed, or how long it took. I did my best to take my time, though, despite the pressure and the burning that accompanied crowning. I remembered my experience pushing out my second baby, how I had been so desperate and had pushed him out way too fast; so I was determined to make myself slow down this time and hopefully reduce the amount of tearing. It was excruciating to wait, especially when I could feel the head halfway out already and my whole lower body burned with the pain. I didn’t remember my other two babies being nearly this difficult to push out. My midwife assisted as much as she could, turning the baby as I pushed. Whenever my cries became too high-pitched, she reminded me to lower the pitch. I moaned and yelled long and loud as needed; my survival instinct was taking over, and I focused only on getting my baby out.
At one point, my midwife invited Nick to reach down and feel the head, and he did. She invited me to do the same, but I was clinging so hard to the lip of the tub with my arms, and I was afraid to let go as I imagined I might slip into the water. I simply said—more like cried—“I can’t!” Probably the most irrational moment of my entire labor.
Finally, with one final push, I felt my baby’s head push through, and then the rest of his body slithered out. It was . Even before I saw him, I could tell he was big and long from the way he felt coming out. My midwife placed him on my chest, and I half-laughed and half-cried. And I held him close to me as one of the nurses suctioned out his mouth and nose. My midwife placed a towel over us to help keep the baby warm as he looked rather purple.
My midwife helped Nick cut the cord, and soon after I pushed out the placenta, which felt almost as hard as that final push with the baby had been. I still burned a good deal, which told me that I had probably torn again—a little disappointing, since I had hoped being in the water would help me to not tear at all. But several minutes later when the nurse announced his weight on the scale, I felt justified.
He weighed 11 lbs. 6.5 oz. at birth. He also measured 22 ¼ inches long. His head circumference was 14 inches—big head! No wonder I had had such a hard time!
Corban was struggling to breathe and was still quite purple. The nurses started giving him oxygen to get him pinked up.
I rested in the tub, my legs still spread out, not wanting to move at all because of the burning. But I had to get out so my midwife could stitch me up. So Nick helped me out and to the bed, where again I lay with my legs spread open, feeling physically weak and vulnerable—and worried about my baby who was still struggling to hold in oxygen.
As bold and as brave as I may be through labor and delivery, I always feel like a coward in comparison when it comes time for the stitches. This time was no different than the other two times before. It didn’t matter whether or not the midwife was actually stitching or tugging at anything, I shrieked and moaned and winced indiscriminately through the whole procedure. When it comes to needles piercing my skin, the anticipation is just as bad as—if not worse than—the real thing.
Finally, I was stitched up, but still winced at the thought of moving. Eventually I managed to put my legs together and rested for a little while as Nick and the nurses came in and out bringing me news of my baby, who was now under an oxygen hood and being prepared for transfer to the NICU at another hospital in the valley. The on-call pediatrician also came in to explain the situation to Nick and me. They believed our baby to be suffering from the effects of a Group B Strep infection (despite my treatment during labor), with excess fluid in his lungs and mild pneumonia. Once in the NICU, he would be put on antibiotics and oxygen.
Eventually I couldn’t stay in the bed any longer as I really needed to use the toilet. The nurse helped me, and it wasn’t nearly as painful as I had anticipated, so after that I was less anxious about moving around. As it turned out, being in the water had helped me to tear less than I had during either of my other births, despite this baby being at least two pounds bigger. Once I realized that the discomfort this time around wasn’t nearly as bad as before, I felt pretty confident to move around as I wished.
Nick went right to sleep once things settled down. I tried to sleep, and managed to get myself into a half-daze for about an hour, but then I couldn’t rest anymore and got up. I ate, and visited Corban in the nursery. It was hard not being allowed to nurse him right away like I had my other two.
Eventually, I felt tired enough to go back to bed again. I was having some pretty bad afterbirth pains, though. My midwife had said earlier that the afterbirth is typically a little more painful after each subsequent delivery, especially with such a big baby. I took something for the pain, and resisted the urge to over-massage my uterus as it contracted.
Sometime during all this I called my parents and my in-laws to update them on what was happening.
Finally, I did manage to drift off—just in time for an
EMT to come in to let me know that they were there
to transfer Coby to the NICU now. Nick was still knocked out on the daybed. I
had originally planned to see Coby off, but I felt so exhausted and sleepy I
just said thanks to the EMT and
said we’d probably come to the NICU in a couple hours after we’d rested and
washed up and had some breakfast (the cafeteria opened at 7 and it was
currently around 6:00).
As it happened, it was more like 9:30 by the time we were ready to leave the hospital to head back into town to see our baby boy. My midwife had me completely discharged based on how well I was doing physically, and we were free to go.
What a blessing it was for us to have a small NICU right in our own hometown. Only two years ago, our baby would have had to be transferred 2-3 hours away. Corban made such a rapid recovery, and was off supplemental oxygen within four days, which led the NICU doctor to change his initial diagnosis of Group B and pneumonia to simple water retention around the lungs. This excess fluid had drained quickly, though the doctor decided to keep administering the full antibiotic treatment to be safe.
Coby also suffered a broken clavicle during delivery due to his size; the doctor told us to just be careful and gentle, and that the shoulder would heal itself in about four weeks.
The story of Corban’s NICU stay, though, is better left for another time, as this story is long enough. For now, I will just say how happy we all were to finally bring Coby home on March 10th, six days after his birth. The boys are excited. Gabe is eager to show his baby brother everything—especially his video games. Zac delights in hugging and kissing his baby brother, though we have to remind him constantly to be gentle or he gets overly affectionate very quickly.
Welcome to the world, Little One.