Wednesday, November 28, 2012

birth story...

i'll begin by saying that i had a great pregnancy...we got pregnant easily, no morning sickness, weight gain that looked like i'd swallowed a basketball, no swollen ankles, lots of energy (after the first trimester), etc.  i was one of those people that loved being pregnant...i'd say i was my most content during those 42 weeks.  i feared that somehow my good pregnancy fortune would have to take a turn at some point...during labor.  i shouldn't have spent an ounce of time worrying about that.

my original due date was november 2, but it was moved to october 21st after our first ultrasound.  my new due date passed and the days went on.  i was so content keeping this being inside me...i wasn't itching to get them out.  i loved feeling them move inside me.  i loved taking them along with me wherever i went.  i liked our life together.  i loved the mystery of not knowing if i was carrying a boy or a girl.

a week after our due date, we began making plans for an induction at 42 weeks, if it got to that point.  i was concerned that an induction meant that i was going to be thrown into the medical system and have a horribly unnatural labor.  i feared pitocin, feared setting myself up to need an epidural, and feared ultimately having a c-section after hours and hours of trying to get our baby out.  

as the induction became more and more of a possibility i kicked into gear.  in the weeks prior i'd been taking evening primrose oil, but now i got down to business and started trying everything (except castor oil) to get the process started...had my membranes stripped, ate pineapple (core and all), got a massage, had acupuncture, got a pedicure, had sex, and ate spicy name it.  nothing worked.

then came the evening when we drove to the hospital for our induction.  we had dinner with our families at our house, got in the car, and drove to the hospital for 7pm.  i remember pulling out of the driveway and o honked the horn that moment it hit me that while in the past few weeks i had wondered: will today be the day? will i go into labor at work? when will this be? there was no question.  the next time i came home it would be with a baby.  i think i was a bit in denial as we drove to the wasn't the frantic contractions while driving on the highway that i had imagined.  i had some mild cramping in the car.  we arrived at mercy hospital and we were shown to our room.  it felt like checking into a hotel.  we unpacked our things, we looked around, and i put on comfy clothes.

nurse roxanne mooney and doctor kathryn "kay"wadland came in and explained what was going to happen.  i would have cervidil inserted for 12 hours and then in the morning we'd see where we were and likely start on pitocin.  kay prepared us that this process may take a could be late monday or tuesday (or later) before we had our baby.  she offered me an ambien to get some sleep that night.  i declined based on my one ambien on a flight to paris experience that failed pretty miserably and left me feeling gross.

we settled in and turned on the television.  they inserted the cervidil at 9:05pm.  at that point i was two centimeters dilated and 80% effaced, as i had been for weeks.  we watched the end of the movie the hangover.  by just after 10:00pm we contemplated watching an episode of arrested development, but i was starting to have contractions.  i remember desperately wanting to watch the show, but just knowing i couldn't.  we turned off the tv, i got on a swiss ball, and we worked our way through some contractions that were five minutes apart.  we called our doula to tell her that we were having some contractions, but would call her later when and if things continued to progress.  

the swiss ball felt okay, but i struggled to get comfortable.  i vividly remember the contraction that changed ripped through my body and had me doubting that i could handle labor.  i was fearful that i wasn't strong enough to do could i be ready to throw in the towel after one really strong contraction?

soon i was shaking uncontrollably.  my core, my limb...flailing around.  roxanne assured me this was the hormones and a normal reaction. at that point i began moving around the room, searching for a place that i could effectively cope with my contractions.  i couldn't find a way to deal...i tried a few contractions on the bed, in a chair, on the ball, laying down, bent over the side of the bed, half on the bed...i couldn't find the place where i could get into a rhythm with my contractions.  i laid on o's pullout bed, my head in his lap when after a really intense contraction i turned to roxanne and said "i can't do this anymore" and i remember thinking that i wanted her to call the doctor and i wanted a c-section.  i didn't want drugs, i didn't want another contraction...i wanted this baby out. there was no way i could do this for hours or days.  

roxanne suggested we check to see how dilated i was.  i was hesitant.  the last thing i wanted was for her to say "two centimeters" but she insisted.  i got on the bed, she began the exam and she said "i can't find your cervix" my head i had no idea what that meant and thought "then go find someone who can"...then she said "you are 9.5 centimeters" and took out the cervidil. it was now 12:41.  it had been just three and a half hours since the start of our induction.  the uncontrollable shaking had clearly been a sign of transition.  roxanne paged doctor wadland and began setting up the equipment for the arrival of our baby.  o called our doula, eve, and she was there in minutes.  i'm pretty sure this is the point where i started to go into a bit of shock.

doctor wadland arrived and confirmed that i was now 10 centimeters dilated.  i kept thinking that something must not be right...there was no way that i could be ready to push.  labor had just started! i refused to believe i was already fully dilated.  things had happened so quickly that my mind was not as far along into this process as my body. the pace of the labor made it impossible for me to appreciate that i was having the birth that i had hoped for...natural and without drugs (aside from the cervidil).  that only occurred to me after she was in my arms...never during the process.

i was told i could push when i felt the urge, but i was not there yet. doctor wadland sat quietly to the side and let me try to find my own way.  i loved that.

i asked if i could get in the tub and was told i could, but that they would need to break my water to make sure there was no meconium in the amniotic fluid. they broke my water around 1:15am and with clear fluid i was given the green light to get in the tub. but first we had to wait for what felt like ages for it to fill.   

while we waited for the tub to fill i got on my hands and knees on the bed. i was nervous about what my body would do, i felt like i might poop, i was not empowered to do this yet.  i was scared.  when i got in the tub struggled to find my place. i moved around lying this way and that. i squatted. i had envisioned laboring and maybe birthing in the tub, but nothing felt right. i couldn't figure out how i was going to do this.  i told those around me that i felt 'weird' and 'detached from what was happening'. in the tub i had a my first few contractions where i had a strong involuntary urge to push, but was not quite sure what that meant, nor what i should do/how i should do it.

i decided to get out of the tub and on to the birth stool, which seemed like a good middle space between the tub and the bed. i had just a few contractions on the stool, but again it didn't feel right. i could not envision pushing like this for a long time.  i was tired and was told i could rest backwards on o, but that was awkward.  i wasn't sure what my options were at this point.  prior to labor i had thought that pushing would be the best part, but at this point i was really struggling to find my way into how i would best do that.  the contractions at this point were completely different than when dilating...they were just intense pressure, but not the same feelings as before.

in the back of my mind were voices telling me to avoid getting in the bed...if i had all kinds of options (tub, stool, etc.) i should use them and let gravity work with me, but all i wanted was to be in bed.  i got in bed and rolled on my left side.  it is strange, because during my whole pregnancy laying on my side had been so uncomfortable. here is where i found my groove for the first time during labor. 

i remember keeping my eyes closed during contractions, o holding my hands. i recall making a lot of noise while i pushed.  those in the room said it wasn't yelling or screaming, but was more of a pushing moan.  i still think they were lying! by keeping my left foot pushed against a firm piece on the end of the bed i gained the leverage i needed. doctor wadland instructed me to grab my right leg and pull it back and open during the contractions.  it was then that i finally really 'got it'. as each contraction came to an end it became difficult to lower my leg back down, and i needed pillows to buffer the space.

after the contractions, which came quickly, but never felt as long as i expected them to (i'm quite curious how long they actually were!), i would rest.  i was really o and eve would give me ice chips and put cold compresses on my forehead and back.  i prayed that somehow my body might skip the next contraction or give me a little break...but then i would feel the pressure again in the front of my body, which would quickly move to the back of my body, and soon i was pushing again.

doctor wadland showed me with her hands how much of my baby's head she could see and the visual mirrored what it felt like. like being slowly pried open...but in a stretching way...not in a painful way, if that makes any sense. she told me i would meet my baby soon. i responded "don't say that unless you mean it" and after some laughter everyone reassured me the birth was imminent.  i remember the feeling of 'the ring of fire', but to me it felt more like the pressure of being pulled apart. and then i asked "is the head out?"...and it was.  doctor wadland had me reach down and two seconds later our baby was placed on my stomach and chest at exactly 3:16am.  there was a loud cry just as i looked down and learned we had a daughter.

here are a few photos from that moment...

we cried and laughed and kissed and hugged...and swore.  holy shit!  we have a daughter!

at our request our doula audio recorded from just before the birth until a few minutes after.  it is amazing to listen to for millions of reasons.  to hear her wailing and taking her first breath.  to hear us crying.  to hear o's words in that moment.  to learn that her little hand, which had been up by her face in every ultrasound photo was by her face when she was born (and is right now as i write this, too).  to hear how quickly the work of labor turned into love and laughter and shock.  to hear the moment when we gave her a name.  to hear myself, just three minutes after she was born describe it by saying "that was so intense...and so awesome!" is just wild and empowering.  i love that chunk of time right after she was was a blur of baby, blood, placenta, a few stitches, love, and the immediate need to replay what just happened.  as soon as the labor was over the pain and pressure was gone...and hard to recall.  we were flooded in a wash of love and disbelief.

it didn't feel real. in the moment i could not appreciate that the birth had unfolded as it had. i could not believe it was over. i certainly didn't wish it had been longer, but i never imagined i would have a less than six hour labor...neither did the doctor or nurse! i also wasn't sure i could handle natural childbirth...and boy did i ever!

on my chart it reads:
stage 1: 3 hours, 25 minutes (that's the time dilating...and watching the hangover)
stage 2: 2 hours, 21 minutes (that is the time getting ready to push and pushing)
stage 3: 4 minutes (that is the time it took to get the placenta out)

5 hours and 50, fast, i tell you.  there is something about labor that is all consuming...forget mantras, music, and all the stuff i thought i would want...labor was my body working in a most focused way on the most magnificent of tasks.

labor taught me that i am stronger than i ever imagined possible.  labor made me acutely aware of how absolutely incredible the human body is.  labor was an experience from which i can now draw a lot of strength, which isn't something i'd ever anticipated.  labor made me a mother.

here is a photo of me surrounded by those that were in the room when maeve entered the world, those to whom i will be forever grateful.
{maeve and i surrounded by kay, o, roxanne, and eve}

it has taken me weeks to write this, because it is hard to put into words...and it has been hard to find blocks of time to focus on this.  what is written above is the best way i can describe my experience...but i think i captured it best when i used the words intense and awesome.  intense and awesome, indeed! 

first photo by christina wnek


  1. is it weird that reading this made me want to birth another baby?? You are a rockstar mama!!

  2. just about the sweetest story ever. cried my way through it. so incredibly happy for you!
    -dre dre

  3. Jill, thank you for chronicling your entire process. It is beautiful and I am so happy that your birthing experience was such a positive one. Bless you and your family! In keeping yourself open to what each day brings, you are being the best mother you can be. Lucky Maeve! xo, TR


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