Dear Alice Rose, this is the story of the day you were born...
I woke up at 3:30am on Saturday the 25th because, as usual, I had to pee (for the third time that night). I felt fine at that point. I got back into bed and had trouble falling back asleep. Who knows why, but I just tossed and turned for about an hour and a half. I remember thinking "I dare you, body, go into labor. Do it! This is the perfect time." At 5:00 am I felt a back cramp and thought "huh, that's new...but probably nothing". I was totally convinced that we'd be spending Memorial Day weekend as a family of three, and that I'd be going in on Tuesday morning and Anne (my midwife) would try using gels (prostaglandin gel) to get things going (that's what put me into labor with Eliza). So yeah, I was in denial. Then the back cramp came back. And then it came back again. And again. Okay, maybe I started to believe that this could be *it*, at this point. So I broke out my iPod touch and started timing them with this app. And sure enough, they were about 7-8 minutes apart, and about 40 seconds long at that point. Early labor. Wow. I couldn't believe it! I sent out a few texts, tied up a few loose ends (like balancing the checkbook and paying a few bills), and went to the kitchen and ate two poached eggs, two slices of whole wheat toast with olive oil and a big glass of OJ. Best move ever, because I don't think I ate after that until dinner time. I was still hungry throughout labor, but that breakfast was a great start to Labor Day! Eliza and Andy were still sleeping at this point. Oh, but Eliza did wake up once that morning at around 5:00, right after the cramps started, and I went in to her bedroom to cuddle her back to sleep... I remember thinking this might be the last dawn I would cuddle her as an only child. And I cried - oh the emotions of that morning. They started then and pretty much haven't stopped since! :)
At 6:30 Eliza woke up for the morning and came downstairs, and I told her I might be in labor and the baby might come today. She was SO excited. We went upstairs and Daddy was just waking up too, and I told him "I think I might be in labor - I'm feeling cramps that are definitely regular!". He was also happy, of course, especially since he had just gotten a fairly decent night's sleep (another difference between Alice and Eliza's births - with Eliza's, we were sooo tired after having been up for 24 hours with no sleep!). I called my mom around 7am to tell her I thought this might be it. I said I didn't need them to come over quite yet, but I'd call her to update her soon. Contractions were still about 6-7 minutes apart and weren't that strong at this point. I was breathing and talking through them easily and still running around the house doing various things in between. Around 8:00 or so, they were getting bad enough that I felt like I needed my mom there. She and my dad arrived at 8:30 and at that point I think the contractions were about 5 minutes apart. They weren't super regular still, though, so I kept worrying that that meant something, like my labor wasn't progressing or something. Mind games! Anyway, we had set up Eliza in our bedroom watching Mr. Rogers so my mom came in and there I was laboring on the bed with Eliza at the foot of the bed watching Mr. Rogers episodes (one episode was, coincidentally, about bringing a new baby home!). Eliza was so kind - when I would have a contraction she would rub my leg and talk to me. It was so sweet. Sometimes, she would want to jump on the bed, too, and that hurt like crazy so we kindly asked her not to do that while mommy was having a contraction!
At around 9:00, my mom checked me and I was at a 4, and 100% effaced. Baby was at 0 station, so she was definitely coming that day! No more denial, that's for sure :) Mom asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and I really REALLY did not want to go yet. Although I knew I didn't want a homebirth, I had the strongest urge to stay at home (I mean, I did feel at that moment that I wanted a homebirth, in a way, but didn't at the same time -- it's one of those things that sounds good in theory to me, but is not something I'd be comfortable/feel good actually attempting - too many risks, IMO). I just did not want to leave home. I didn't want to go out in public, go to the hospital where people would be pawing me, hooking me up to monitors, fussing over me, asking me questions, etc... I love my midwife, Anne, and feel totally comfortable with her and the hospital I was going to - I knew my mom and my midwife were supportive and would work with me to have the birth I wanted... and yet I just remember asking "do we really have to go??" over and over again.
At this point, we asked Eliza what she wanted to do. We gave her the option of staying home and playing with Grandpa or coming to the hospital with us. She insisted that she come to the hospital with us. She had said since we first told her we were going to have a baby that she wanted to be there when baby was born. We'd always said that we would have to see what time of day it was, how mama felt, how she felt, etc... but that if it worked out she could be there. We asked her a few times that morning and every time she told us quickly and without a doubt that she wanted to come. She wanted to watch her sister "get born!".
By 10:00am, I finally felt ready. It was a switch that happened quickly, but when it did I knew it was the right time to go. So we piled our stuff and everyone - my parents, Eliza, me and Andy - into 2 cars and off we went to the hospital. It is only 10 minutes away so fortunately I only had one contraction while we were in the car. Let me just say: OUCH. Potholes and even the slightest bump? NOT YOUR FRIEND while in labor!
My mom and I went into the ER entrance while my dad and Andy parked the cars. I got checked in after a slight wait in the ER (where I felt fully on display - exactly what I didn't want) where we had to wait for some sort of Very Official Transport to get up to maternity. I thought that was a bit silly, but whatever. The guy came with a wheelchair, which I declined, and we all walked slowly up to maternity, stopping a few times so I could breath and work through a few contractions. My dad, Andy and Eliza met us in the hallway on our way up.
Anne met us at Maternity and we walked into room 2526, the room where I would welcome my second baby into the world. I knew it when I walked in and it felt... big. I saw the bed and that felt big, too. I couldn't believe this was it.
Anne checked me and I was at a 5 and baby was making her way down. I will admit I was a bit bummed to only have made 1cm progress since my mom had checked me! The contractions were pretty painful at this point and I definitely felt like I was in active labor. I needed Andy and my mom to help me through them. Andy was great in labor - not surprisingly. He was wonderful when I was in labor with Eliza, as well. He was saying all the right things, rubbing my feet between contractions, applying counter pressure when I'd have a bad contraction. And my mom was so calming and soothing. Her presence is just so reassuring, no matter the situation. She is the perfect presence in labor, and the fact that she is a midwife makes her even more perfect because she knows just what to say and do to support a laboring woman.
Things continued like this and I just kept on laboring, working through each contraction - I got in the tub/shower with the birth ball, on the bed on my side, hugging the back of the bed... I tried a lot of different positions - anything that was suggested to me, pretty much - and just kept trying to move baby down. I pictured her moving down and out and tried to let me body just do its thing. It was doing it, after all! I remember I felt proud of myself this time - more so than with Eliza - I felt like I could do it this time. I was progressing and I was working through each contraction, and I was doing this. At some point Anne checked me again and I was at a 7. Around this time (time gets fuzzy in labor so I don't remember exactly), Anne started to notice baby's heart rate was a bit fast (tachycardic) and she didn't like seeing that. She recommended we start an IV so I could get some fluids into me to see if that would help. I agreed - I trust Anne so I will always go with what she recommends, even though I wasn't thrilled with the idea of an IV in my hand, or with having the tubes interfere with my ability to move around. The nurse did the IV and gave me a bag of saline and baby did in fact chill out a bit. Anne was feeling better about baby's behavior and heart rate after that. I was too :)
Anne then said that if I wanted to get into the water birth tub (I was indeed hoping for a water birth), she needed to break my water. They need to be sure there is no meconium before you can get in the tub to deliver. Alas, when she broke my water there was a little meconium in it, so no water birth for me. However, the disappointment of that was quickly overshadowed by my worry for my baby. I knew the risks that came with meconium. Everyone reassured me that it likely wouldn't be a big deal; it just meant an extra nurse in the delivery room, and Anne also prepared me for the possibility that baby might not get to stay on my chest after delivery if she didn't start crying right away. But baby would be in the right hands if she needed any intervention after birth.
Contractions felt more intense after this point, and I was feeling less able to cope with the pain. I remember opening my eyes and searching the room for something, someone, to take the pain away when the contractions would peak and be at their most painful. I tried focusing on baby's heart rate when I was on the monitors, and just listened to that sound, that helped some. With each contraction I also started picturing a mountain in front of me, and I pictured a train tunnel (not sure why this image came to mind!) with a train bursting through it. The image made me think to myself that there is no way to go around this contraction, to get around feeling this pain, I can only go THROUGH it. Just go through it and come out the other side when it's over. Then when it was over, I'd breathe it away, let the pain go, let the memory of the pain go (as best I could), and just be in the moment and let my body rest. One more contraction down, one more contraction closer to meeting my baby (and being done with this!!)... all these thoughts, images, and tricks really helped me get through it.
I never really felt the urge to push with Eliza (because I had had an epidural by that point with Eliza), so when that urge suddenly came over me during this labor, it was a completely foreign feeling. A really interesting one though! It really is animalistic, in a way. Something takes over your body - or, rather, perhaps it's just your body taking over - and your body just know what to do. It was crazy. I remember starting to feel it, and not quite knowing what the feeling was at first, having never felt it. Anne had told me I might start to feel pushy soon, and that was okay, just to let my body do what it needed to do... so I think I said I needed to push and Anne said just to go ahead with small pushes. She then quickly checked me and said I just had a little anterior lip left so I was almost complete. I can't really remember, but I think I had another contraction after that and then I was complete... which is when the craziness really started! My mom quickly called my dad and Eliza back in the room - they had gone to grab lunch and were just getting back.
I only pushed for 14 minutes, and those 14 minutes were the most intense, most painful of my entire life! But wow what a powerful experience. Overwhelming, painful, difficult, but so so powerful. I couldn't believe I was doing it. I didn't realize how well I was doing it until not long after I started pushing Anne and Andy (who at this point was holding one of my legs) said they could see hair. Hair! I was close. My mom was at my head, and I was gripping on to her neck and arm with all my might (and I left quite the lovely bruise on her arm in doing so! She wore it proudly afterwards, hehe). Eliza was next to my mom on a tall stool and was watching everything. Everyone was reassuring her that mommy was okay and they were explaining what was going on and she just took it all in and watched intently. I looked over at her a few times and I don't think I'll ever forget the look on her face! It was interest, mixed with a little shock and a lot of awe, I think. My big girl, my sweet sweet girl - she was stroking my hair and just acting like such a mature child. I was proud, and so glad she was there with us, to watch her sister enter the world, and our family. She tells me now that she was also happy that she was there.
I will always remember the two times in my life when Anne said to me "reach down and grab your baby, Ella!". I got to do it with both of my girls, and they are two of the best experiences of my life. This time, when Anne said that, only 14 minutes after I had started pushing, I was SO excited -- to meet my baby, yes, but honestly, I was also just so happy that it was almost over! I grabbed that tiny slippery body underneath both arms and with one more push, Alice was on my chest. It was 2:06 pm. She started screaming before her feet were even out, so they didn't need to take her away, I got to keep her on my chest; the meconium turned out not to be a big deal, she was healthy as can be. A bit purple, but she was healthy. Her apgars were 8 and 9. And she looked like a big baby! I think Anne was surprised - she had been saying all along that this was a very average sized baby... but surprisingly, Alice was above average at 8 lb 11 oz!
She was here! And my whole family was together in one room - even grandma and grandpa were there to witness this beautiful life begin. It was perfect. Alice Rose was here!
"Welcome to the spinning world!", they said. "We are so glad you've come!"