Now that Sam is nearing 16 months old…I’m finally writing up his birth story! That took a while. Whoops.
I actually started keeping a few little notes in my phone near the end of my pregnancy, and I kind of like the way the anticipation builds up, so I’m gonna start with that. So, really, the majority of this was written at the time or within the first couple weeks after Sam’s birth; I’m just tidying it up now into an actual story. I hope you enjoy it! (While I get weepy about my little baby being all grown up.)
WARNING: Definitely includes some graphic elements, so if you mind hearing about bodily fluids etc, you should probably skip this one.
10/12/10 – 36w2d – 8th dating anniversary. Dr L says I’m measuring small for the first time after being on target up until now. Sends me for ultrasound to measure baby’s size.
Dressed up for our anniversary!
10/16 – 36w6d – first painful contraction, when Mr. Z is out. Doesn’t last long, doesn’t come back for at least a day.
10/18 – 37w1d – ultrasound predicts his current weight at 6lbs 11oz – normal to large! And we get to see close ups of his face where his nose & cheeks look JUST like Mr. Z!
10/19 – 37w2d – Dr. G agrees I’m still measuring small but is impressed by his weight estimate and concludes he must have dropped between the 35 & 36 week appointments. I confirm that that is when I suddenly started feeling a lot more uncomfortable with a lot of lower pelvic pressure.
10/23 – 37w6d – about 4 minutes of on and off painful contractions, ending with fairly intense pain. Mr. Z considers canceling his evening plans but nothing else happens for several hours so he goes out and I have no more contractions for several days.
10/24 – 38w – We had our maternity photos taken by Carol Shin in Central Park!
One of my favorites of Carol's pics
10/26 – 38w2d – installed carseat!
10/27 – 38w3d – Dr M does my first internal exam: 3 cm dilated & 70% effaced! She is SHOCKED by how low his head is already!! Tells us most first time moms haven’t dilated or effaced ANY by this point, so this combined with my family history of quick labor might mean that I’ll go soon & quick! Tells me definitely not to wait as long as the standard recommendation (contractions 3-5 minutes apart for 2 hours) and instead call as soon as they average about 4 minutes apart. Says we might not need our appointment next week but don’t worry about having to cancel since they track all the births and can cancel it for me.
10/28 – 38w4d – met with Dr H & liked him a lot – FINALLY picked a pediatrician!!!! Last major checkmark completed in order to be ready for Sam.
10/30 – 38w6d – many very tiny contractions, but no pattern whatsoever and averaging just a few seconds at a time. We hung up the quilt and nailed down the changing pad so the nursery is officially ready!
Still in good spirits on Halloween at 39 weeks
11/3 – 39w3d – Dr S estimates 4-5 cm dilated, still at 70% effaced. Last week Dr M wrote down 0 station but Dr S thinks I’m probably at -1.
11/4 – 39w4d – bloody show in the morning! Crampiness for hours that eventually started coming and going in waves along with some belly tightening, but no real contractions yet. Stayed in bed with Albi sleeping in my lap (!) until Mr Z came home around 3:00. Rocking side to side feels good. Symptoms milder now so just waiting it out @4pm. Everything kind of faded after that. Went to bed feeling discouraged.
11/5 – 39w5d – passed a little mucous plug around 6:30am. Crampy again. Regular bowel movement around 10:00, but then diarrhea around 1:00. Is this the body emptying itself out in preparation for labor?? Braxton Hicks getting stronger but still no real contractions.
Can you guess which is me and which is Mr Z?
11/6 – 39w6d – on and off contractions (some real ones!) all day, but nothing averaging more than ~20 min apart, which only lasted about an hour. Passed more mucus plug after midnight & feeling crampy again at bedtime. Will Sam be prompt and show up on his actual due date?!
11/7/10 – 40w – DUE DATE! A few fairly consistent contractions in the afternoon that tapered off in the evening. Went to dinner at Locale to celebrate/take minds off lack of progress and had a great time on potentially our last childless date!
Not feeling quite so optimistic, on my due date
11/8 – 40w1d – contractions almost all day but very inconsistent timing. Think they’re maybe averaging slightly stronger than before? But maybe not. Died down completely by about 7pm. Getting discouraged. Scheduled acupuncture induction for tomorrow before regular checkup – the extra appointment we didn’t think we’d make it to!!
11/9 – 40w2d – no contractions all morning but going for acupuncture induction at 2:00. Waifan (my acupuncturist) said that since I’m already so far dilated and he’s so low, that it could happen TONIGHT! Got a hot chocolate then headed to my extra OB appointment with Dr L. She is super shocked by how low he is (at least zero station) and says I’m now at least 5cm dilated and 80% effaced. I’m almost positive she stripped my membranes and while she said I should go ahead and make an appointment for next week, she REALLY cannot imagine it will take that long. Says if we end up having to induce, they can most likely ONLY break my water since I definitely don’t need cytotech for dilation and probably not even pitocin at this point. Feeling optimistic when we get home but still haven’t had any contractions all day, although I’m feeling very crampy after the internal.
At 7:51, I have my first real contraction – close to as painful as any I’ve had so far. Definitely seems different/more real than past ones, but trying not to get hopes up because of all the upbeat news earlier. Have a few more, averaging 7 or so minutes apart but as far as 18 minutes. Mr Z asks if I want to call Stacey, our doula, but I want to watch Glee first and see if things progress. A little before 9:00, they shift to more like 6 minutes apart, and are more consistent, and getting stronger. We call Stacey at 9:06 and she says she can come over now but we decide to maybe wait a tiny bit first. Around 9:30 the contractions start averaging 4.5 minutes apart and getting incredibly painful. I start vocalizing loudly, verging into screaming/yelling from the intended moan. We call Stacey and tell her to come ASAP. She’s in Brooklyn so it should take about a half hour. A few minutes later we call my OB practice and Dr M suggests we head in immediately given how dilated I am and my family history. [My mother’s first labor was about 6 hours and second was about 4 hours. My grandmother’s labors were similarly quick, with her 4th child being delivered in about 45 minutes!!] We ask if we can wait until Stacey shows up and she semi-reluctantly agrees.
Pain gets so much worse and Mr Z suggests we take a shower which really does help. I also have lots of diarrhea which makes me want to stay on the toilet during contractions so I don’t have to tighten my muscles. Mr Z frantically packs the rest of the stuff for the car and we head out almost immediately after Stacey shows up. I sit in the back seat of the car with her and she rubs my back and gives me water while Mr Z drives and I attempt not to throw up or poop in the car. It’s about 11:00 pm on a random Tuesday so luckily traffic is light and we’re there before we know it since contractions are now only ~3 minutes apart so I barely register most of the drive. This is also around the time that the peak of the contraction moves from about 30 seconds in to more like 45, which is killing me. So far, the easiest way to deal with contractions has been to a) scream as loud as I can (I didn’t have any idea I could make such horrible sounds) and b) when things are at their worst and getting completely unbearable, yell “time??” and have Mr Z or Stacey tell me how far into the contraction I am. Most of the time I would be something like 27 seconds so I’d just barely have to hold on before the let down would start, which made me able to cope with a few more seconds of the most intense pain ever. But, now that they’re getting longer, it is harder to hold on, think positive thoughts, breathe properly etc.
I was definitely NOT looking this pleasant when we showed up to the hospital for real.
I have a contraction as we pull into the valet area so we wait for it to end and then discover there is no valet guy?? Stacey grabs me a wheelchair and takes me in to get admitted while Mr Z goes to park the car. I have another contraction on the elevator and random strangers advise me how to breathe! We get to triage and they tell me to change into a robe, and start asking me questions, which I often cannot begin to answer mid-contraction. They also say we have to sign in downstairs in admitting even though we’re pre-registered. I call Mr Z and tell him to stop there on his way up. He does but they tell him he has to go upstairs…but when he gets up they tell him to go down again. Thankfully they called down so by the time he got back down there they were willing to sign him in, but the end result is that this plus the lack of valet meant we were apart for close to half an hour, making Stacey invaluable during that whole string of contractions while I was in triage with a million strange doctors/nurses running around and no one else staying with me. I used the bathroom again and they came to check me and discovered I was already at 8cm!!! No wonder I kept screaming “I’m going to throw up!!” in the car (even though I didn’t) – I was in transition on the drive over! They call Dr M, who is my favorite doctor at the practice, so I’m thrilled she’s the one on call, and rush to get me to a labor & delivery room. Mr Z finally shows up and we move into the room a little before midnight.
11/10/10 – 40w3d – SAM’S BIRTHDAY – They check me again and send in an anesthesiologist to ask about an epidural. I say no but they ask me to sign a release for one if I need an emergency c-section. Several other consent forms for various emergency situations, which I can barely scrawl on. I head back into the bathroom and do most of my laboring on the toilet. Stacey and Mr Z both come in with me and we all breathe together etc. Still having a bit of diarrhea but feeling a million times better not having to try to hold it in as I was in the car/on the bed.
Dr M shows up and comes into the bathroom too (party time! There are also several nurses/random people I don’t know in there too by now.) Asks if I’m feeling pressure/need to bear down. I say no because I think it’s just the desire to poop out as much as I can in the toilet before moving back to the bed. She listens to my vocalizations during the next contraction and says, “No, you are bearing down now!!” I deny it, but after another contraction I realize that I really am bearing down. Whoops! I say this but can’t make myself get off the toilet because it’s the only comfortable place, and am admonished several times “Don’t poop the baby out!!” “Don’t you dare have that baby in the toilet!” All in good fun at first, but I keep refusing to get up and I can hear them getting a bit concerned as everyone is running around frantically prepping the room for delivery.
They finally manage to help me to the bed and check my dilation and I am 100% and ready to push!! They pull the bed into position (removing the part between legs) and get me set but I barely notice because I am still just screaming and pushing when I feel the urge and ignoring everyone else. I would like to note that in Stacey’s version of the story, I am “roaring like a lioness” which sounds much nicer, but I’m not sure is quite as accurate!!
I thought the pictures showing the "mother's mood" were a lot more amusing when I wasn't the one making that face at the end.
Once everything is in place, it’s time to OFFICIALLY start pushing, so they (led by Dr M) guide me on proper technique. Number one rule is that I canNOT scream because I’m focussing my energy there instead of on pushing!!! This irritates me to no end and is the most difficult thing ever to execute. I keep screaming for a while and they get increasingly stern and eventually I manage a few pushes with no screaming (and chin down, as they also instruct) and they say I’m making great progress! After only a few minutes they say I’m crowning and I am simultaneously shocked that it’s not over yet and that it’s happening so quickly – and that the pain isn’t as horrible as I would have thought. In fact, pushing is much better for me than the later contractions, far less pain & more productive feeling.
At some point they ask me if I want to feel his head, and I instantly understand the “wrinkly wet walnut” description in one of my books. Such a strange sensation. At this point I can’t even associate any of what’s going on with the fact that my baby will be here soon!! Then suddenly a flurry of activity as the doctors start yelling at each other that the baby’s heartrate is dropping and to get a pediatrician in here immediately. I barely register their panic – all I hear is “Laura, we need to get this baby out NOW, so do your best pushing right now” with its implied “or we’ll have to do a c-section.” Driven more by fear of c-section than anything else (since the whole “baby” part still seems so remote) I try to push like crazy. It is way less pleasant now because I can no longer wait for the urge to push, and they put an oxygen mask on me which makes it harder to take a deep breath.
In a frenzy, with everyone yelling and lots of background activity to prepare for various possible scary outcomes, I push harder and work harder than I have at anything else in my life. Suddenly everyone screams “STOP PUSHING!!!” and my heart stops a little. Also, it’s next to impossible to stop at this point. They allow his head to slowly finish passing through (such a strange sensation), check for the umbilical cord etc, then tell me to start again. I brace myself but after just one (?) big push again, his whole body glides effortlessly out!! 1:12 AM on Wednesday, November 10, 2010.
I stare in shock for a moment as they hold him up and instruct Mr Z on cutting the cord, then reach my arms out for my baby. In a heartbreaking moment, they whisk him past me, saying they need to check his vitals first because of his decreasing heart rate. I am a bit in shock and can’t even see the back table where they’ve put him, as they have me try to deliver the placenta. Once it’s out, I ask Mr Z to take a picture of it, so they explain all the different parts and show us how he was inside the amniotic sac with the umbilical cord etc and it is quite cool but I WANT MY BABY!!!
Mr Z took this while I was still on the table
After what seems like years but was probably less than 3 minutes, they declare that his APGAR is great and his heartrate and breathing are perfect, and bring him to me, and suddenly the whole universe stops. I can’t even remember if I was crying or not, I was just so swept up in emotion. The past 5 hours and 21 minutes since my first contraction have been so incredibly intense that I almost forgot that I get a real live baby all to myself & Mr Z at the end of it!!! He is the most beautiful and perfect and amazing thing I have ever ever seen. I pull my robe down and they place his tiny little naked body down on my bare chest for some skin to skin time, and he nuzzles right up against me.
According to Stacey, I whispered, “My baby, I love you,” as soon as they gave him to me, but I can’t remember anything other than that perfect little face, those tiny little fingers, his little shoulders, his wet hair…. After a minute or two, they instruct me on how to get him to latch on for the first time, and Sam, my son, my baby, my everything already, begins to nurse as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world, despite the fact that up until 5 minutes ago his entire universe was inside a tightly confined dark sack of liquid. While that certainly wasn’t all there was to our breastfeeding journey, I am still amazed at how powerful that instinct is!! We were able to hang out with Sam for a while, and Mr Z got to hold his son for the first time, then they took him to clean up, give Vitamin K drops, and put on a diaper etc.
Sam, meet Baba
So in love
We then remained in the same room for another hour or two with Stacey offering more tips (but also stepping back and allowing us plenty of new family time), before they transferred us to a postpartum room at about 4:00AM, and Stacey left. It was unfortunately a shared room, but we got the side next to the gigantic window which made it feel a lot less claustrophobic and also resulted in having a huge radiator to use as a shelf/table so we didn’t have to pile everything on the floor. We were also informed that the hospital’s policy had just changed that week, and fathers were now allowed to stay in the rooms overnight!!! We had packed a few things for Mr Z hoping we could persuade some nurse to bend the rules for us, but the ended up encouraging him to stay, and even provided a reclining chair, blanket, and pillow, so he was at least sort of semi-comfortable.
Can't get enough of this tiny face
Even though Sam fell asleep quickly, all swaddled in his striped hospital blanket, sleeping in his bassinet with his little hat, Mr Z and I were so high on adrenaline that we didn’t fall asleep until well after dawn. Then when the nurses woke us at around 8:00, we had to start making phone calls, and writing emails, and figuring out how to get photos of Sam off of our camera and into an email with our limited technological set up, all while it fully sunk in that we were actually responsible for taking care of this HUMAN CHILD lying there next to us!!!! Sam was very chill during our time in the hospital, and we ended up taking the doctor up on her offer to let us spend only “one night” technically in the hospital – since Sam was born after midnight, that first night didn’t count – so we went home on Thursday the 11th, about 36 hours after Sam was born (although of course we had to check back in the very next day beginning another whole saga…)
He's still ours in the morning!!
As for regrets, I really don’t have any. Obviously, I would have preferred that his heart rate not drop near the end there, but it didn’t result in any problems for him or interventions during labor, just an added couple of minutes of stress, which were barely even noticed during the chaos. I wish I could have held him RIGHT when he was born, but it was so incredibly quick that it certainly didn’t interfere with bonding, and I think I’ve made up for it now with countless hours of snuggling over the past year.
meeting his Granny
The one thing that I keep coming back to is that I wish I could have seen him actually be born. I thought I’d be more squeamish in the moment, so I didn’t ask for a mirror or request photos be taken, and when Mr Z went to get the video camera when Sam was crowning, I screamed at him to stay with me, so it’s entirely my fault that we don’t have it on video…but it still makes me sad that I missed out on actually seeing his entrance into the world. But obviously, that is a very minor complaint, and all in all, I had an infinitely better (and quicker) birth experience than I had ever even hoped for!!
Tiny wrinkly fingers
And still today, fifteen and a half months after that day, I get choked up just looking at you, Sam. I can’t believe you’re so perfect. That you’re half me and half your Baba. That we MADE YOU and somehow ended up with the most incredibly beautiful sweet smart funny perfect perfect perfect little boy in the universe. How exactly did that happen?!? It blows my mind. But we love you so so so so so so much, and cannot imagine anyone else ever being as perfect as you.
No words can ever express...