Monday, August 11, 2008

little one

We've had her for four days now, and I have to say, they've all been pretty awesome. I was exhausted the first day, but that's not unexpected given that labor is, after all, hard labor.

It's amazing to me how much there is to learn about her, and how quickly we learn it. I realize most parents spend quite a bit of time in the first few days gazing, starry-eyed at their baby, memorizing features and facial expressions. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology and the internet, I can now share my starry-eyed gazing with others! For instance, this morning while running my fingers over Sylvia's incredibly soft hair, I noticed she actually has two swirls in the back of her head, one going clockwise, the other counter-clockwise:

and her hands are incredibly tiny!

We shamelessly ripped this picture off from the photographers who take pictures at the hospital:

And, of course, since we're both Geologists, here's the obligatory photo with the GSA scale:

Here's her first bath, which resulted from her first blowout:

It's hard work being a baby...

Sylvia and her dad:

Getting ready to go home from the hospital (I think the green outfit sets of the orange of her jaundiced skin nicely, don't you?):

And finally, the pictures of her first few moments. Here she is being weighed (please note, 5 lb 12.6 oz is, in her case, 2643 g):

It was a long, hard day for all of us, but I don't think either Derrick or I could be any more happy with our little girl!

So, now that the cuteness is documented, I'll detail my labor experience, for those who haven't heard it and are interested. Here's the last picture Derrick took of me pregnant, just before we left for the hospital:

I was supposed to go in for an induction on Monday, the 4th of August, but because Derrick was sick all weekend and because I was really hoping my body would just do what it was supposed to I canceled the appointment and made a new one for Wednesday, the 6th. Of course, my body didn't go into labor on its own, and in spite of all my angst about being induced, I recognized it was time. Honestly, it probably helped that on Monday night my hips started to hurt. This pregnancy was so comfortable until that point going over really didn't bother me. Anyway, I was really quite nervous about the induction and woke up at about 4:30 in the morning and couldn't get back to sleep. I'd had mild insomnia, where I basically wake up between 4 and 5 am and can't get back to sleep until after I've showered and eaten breakfast, fairly often over the last month or two of pregnancy, and have learned it's best to just get up and get stuff done instead of laying in bed being frustrated, so I got up, ate, and started mopping the kitchen floor. Unfortunately, I was too wired to get back to sleep at all, so I was just awake until we left for the hospital.

Derrick got up at about 6:20 and got ready, and I drove us to the hospital. That morning was misty and cool and not at all like a typical August morning. We arrived at the hospital a bit late (this is me, after all) but they took me anyway, giving me the choice of either walking or riding in a wheel chair up to the labor and delivery room. I walked in, figuring I was unlikely to be walking out on my own.

After changing into one of the lovely open-backed gowns they give you, Dr. Shinn came in, checked my cervix, and decided that, surprise, surprise, I was still only maybe 50% effaced and less than one cm dilated. So, he placed a tablet of Cytotec in my cervix and I stayed in bed, hooked up to fetal and contraction monitors for the next hour and a half or so. I started having some contractions, and they eventually let me get up and walk around, even suggesting walking around might encourage stronger contractions. I took that opportunity to find Heather Hansen, who was in the postpartum wing recovering from giving birth to her baby on Monday. She let me hold her little boy and we chatted for a while before I walked back to my room to wait for lunch and the doctor.

Lunch was very red and pink--cherry popsicle, peach jell-o, juice, and chicken broth--and it was just about the same hue when it came back up while I was walking around later. I was warned to expect puking, and I did, in fact, puke. Twice. The second time it was after a dinner of green jell-o and lemonade, which was, if possible, less pleasant coming back up than the earlier pink lunch was.

After lunch (but before puking) the doctor said I was dilated to about 2 cm, but the baby wasn't engaged enough to break my bag of waters. After more walking and the puking, the head was engaged sufficiently that Dr. Shinn broke the amniotic sack and left me hooked up to monitors again with the expectation that my contractions would increase in intensity, regularity, and frequency. That was around 2 pm. By about three my contractions (that were formerly about 3 or 4 minutes apart and strong, but manageable) had slowed seriously, and by four they'd pretty much stopped. So, about 5 pm they started me on IV pitocin.

The nurse claimed it would take about 40 minutes for the pitocin to get into my system, so I sent Derrick out to get dinner. Shortly after he left I started having contractions that felt like they were stronger (though they hardly showed up on the monitor) and never felt like they released completely. By the time Derrick got back from dinner I was ready to take whatever medication they could give me to stop the pain, but when the nurse checked me I was still at 2 cm. She suggested I get on the birthing ball, which turned out to be the most wonderful suggestion she could have made. I spent the next four or five hours pretty much constantly on the birthing ball, except for a period of less than an hour when one of the nurses insisted I stay in bed because the fetal monitor showed the baby's heartbeat slowing during a couple of contractions. Again, while in bed, the contractions were nearly unbearable, but after the heartbeat steadied I got back on the birthing ball and was okay.

My method of dealing with contractions depended very heavily on Derrick. I'd grab his hands, usually the meatiest part of his palm, as a contraction started and would squeeze his hands, kind of massaging them and focus on taking deep breaths (or as deep as I could manage) while the pain peaked. Derrick would tell me to relax, since I would often tense up my legs and feet during the most painful part of the contraction, and would tell me that I was doing well and could do this. I am so glad he was there and so glad he was so supportive during the labor process. Without his constant presence I would not have made it through--at least not without an epidural.

At around 11 pm, Dr. Shinn came in and checked on me again, and I was dilated to 6 cm--way more than I'd expected. If I hadn't been that dilated I probably would have asked for the epidural at that point, but I decided that I'd been handling it well enough that I would try for another hour at least. I think I had the most painful contraction of my labor right after the doctor checked me. I was, of course, lying on my back and the contraction started and I just couldn't catch my breath while I was in a prone position. I remember writhing and arching my back, and I wouldn't be surprised if my eyes rolled back in my head as the pain pulsed through me. Fortunately, once I was back on the birthing ball the contractions went back to being bearable. You're expected to dilate about 1 cm an hour from 6 to 10 cm, and I thought I could probably handle that much more labor, as long as I spent it not on my back.

Dr. Shinn was nice enough to stick around for the whole labor, though he did go sleep for a few hours after the last check. Derrick and I stuck to our routine, dealing with the contractions that came about every two minutes. Between contractions we could talk, and sometimes even make jokes (though the couple of times I told Derrick to shut up it was because he was attempting to be funny when I was trying to concentrate on breathing through a contraction). As the night wore on we both got more and more tired, to the point that we were both falling asleep for the 45 seconds to a minute of pain-free time between contractions. At about 3:30 I decided that we were both so tired we needed to sleep and asked to be checked again. I knew I was close at that point because at least occasionally I felt the urge to bear down (something our nurse told me not to do since that could cause the cervix to swell if I wasn't completely dilated), but I wasn't sure I was close enough that we'd be able to make it without some rest. At that point I figured that if I wasn't pretty close to dilated I'd get the epidural and let both of us get some sleep before I needed to push. When the nurse checked me and said I was fully dilated, and went to get someone else to make sure, I got a definite boost of adrenaline. I had my next contraction standing up, which was also pretty painful, and gave in to the urge to push.

I didn't want to push lying down--contractions while lying down were so painful I was sure that would be terrible--but the nurse convinced me to try, and it turned out to be a remarkably comfortable position for me. Derrick and Michelle (that's the nurse) held my legs back and counted for me during contractions, and within just a few contractions a little head, covered in pale hair, was visible. At that point the activity level in the room about tripled as another nurse wheeled in a bunch of instruments on a cart and the other nurse who'd checked me prepped the area where the baby would be weighed and measured. My contractions spaced out considerably once I was pushing (to 3 or 4 minutes between contractions) but even so, I had to wait through a contraction without pushing for him to show up. That was hard--for whatever reason pushing made the pain go away and was really all I wanted to do. In fact, pushing, after all the long hours of labor, was remarkably fun. Once Dr. Shinn showed up and I was moved into position on the end of the bed I pushed for two contractions and the head came out. I'd been warned to expect a burning sensation as the head emerged, and I definitely felt that, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected (though the episiotomy probably helped that). Dr. Shinn rotated the head around, checked to make sure the umbilical cord wasn't wrapped around her neck, and then with one more rather pitiful on my part push, she was out. I have to say, pushing was about the most exhilarating thing I've done for a while--even better than getting to the top of Cirque Peak!

I ended up tearing in front and had to have stitches in my urethra (which caused me to feel like I had the world's worst UTI for a couple of days) in addition to the episiotomy. Overall, though, I think I came through pretty well. I almost fell over while trying to get into the wheel chair to go to postpartum, but after being awake for more than 24 hours and spending much of that time doing something very physically demanding I think that's pretty expected. I definitely understand why women have epidurals--if the birthing ball hadn't worked as it did, I would have gone that way myself. That said, I'm glad I made it all the way without needing one. Derrick was essential to that as well--you really do need to have someone there to support and help focus attention and energies. I managed to remain relatively pleasant during the labor, only asking people firmly to "give me a minute" if they wanted something during a contraction. As long as they gave me that space I could interact calmly during the periods when I wasn't having a contraction.

I think my ability to focus (which I didn't think was that strong before this) really helped me get through the contractions, and after doing this, I think if that doesn't work for someone else--if someone else finds themselves writhing in pain, or getting mean during labor--they should get the epidural and not feel at all bad about it. This was definitely an educational experience. I have a deeper appreciation appreciation for what my body is capable of, and I have a deeper appreciation for the many birth stories I've heard from other women. I think as women we have a tendency to think our way of doing something, especially something like labor, is the only right way, and may feel judgmental toward others who don't take that path. I wanted a birth with less medical intervention than I experienced, but I'm honestly happy with the outcome--I'm very happy about the way my labor experience went and very grateful to all the people--doctors and nurses, and Derrick, of course--who helped me through it.


  1. Thanks for posting your birth story! You're a rock star for getting through a Pitocin labor without pain meds! It's so different (with actual breaks between) without the Pit. I'm sorry about the tearing -- that was definitely the worst part of my deliveries. Did they have a reason for doing an episiotomy with such a small baby? It doesn't seem like you were pushing over-long. Your approach to labor sounds a lot like mine -- I was mostly quiet and good-humored and focused.

    Congratulations again!

  2. I don't know why he gave me an episiotomy. I suspect he thought I'd tear, so he was trying to spare me that. From what Michelle (the nurse) said, he pulled out the scissors a couple of times and put them back before actually performing the episiotomy. Maybe it's because she came out so fast and he didn't think I'd stretched enough. I didn't ask--I also didn't ask that he not perform one. I know most of the birth books say to have a birth plan and go over it with your doctor, but I didn't have strong feelings about how I wanted things to go and didn't say anything about an episiotomy.

  3. Congratulations!!! She is absolutly BEAUTIFUL!! You are going to be a fantastic mother!! I'm so happy for you!

  4. She's adorable - I can't wait to see her in person.

    As for the peaches, how about I bring over some peach cobbler in the next week or so...

  5. wow, what endurance you have, you should be proud of yourself for all that you accomplished. Sylvia is absolutely beautiful!

  6. Congratulations! She is so sweet--you have so many beautiful pictures!

    And you are SOOOOO brave to tough it out through such a long labor! woohoo!