Three weeks ago, on the night of 4/4/14 (neato, number nerds!), Henry made his escape from the Grand Science Experiment's Uterine Detention Center, a warm, dark mobile facility located primarily in Chicago. It's so nice to follow up my last sad post with something so incredibly joyous. I did start a follow-up but went into labor before I got around to finishing. A half-written blog post can feel real stale after the intervention of few major life events.
I personally am a birth story junky so I'll share the gory details. Feel free to become bored out of your mind and skip to the end where I assure you everyone ends up healthy and happy.
During week 37 of the Long Gestation, I was essentially crossing my legs to ensure the baby did not fall out during my father-in-law's wake and funeral. The shock of his death and the swirl of hormones that ensued brought on two solid days of Braxton Hicks. Fortunately, the batter was not totally cooked yet and little man stayed put. Once the formalities were over and we were back home, J and I felt desperate for our baby to come. More than ever, we needed a huge hit of happy after the horrible events of the past week. Also, I was feeling so huge and uncomfortable. As confirmed by my OB, the baby's head was very low. She had to move his head to check my cervix (sounds crazy and is but I've learned this is typical of a still posterior cervix and descending baby). I had the distinct feeling of a bowling ball dropping into the northern regions of my vagina whenever I walked. Super pleasant. I thought this meant he might eventually just fall out and I could skip the whole labor thing. It did not. I went to acupuncture on Monday (38w2d). The acupuncturist encouraged me to gorge on eggplant to get things moving. Another patient recommended I google "eggplant babies" for a famous eggplant parmesan recipe. Doing so, I found out that this restaurant Scalini's near Atlanta guarantees you'll go into labor within 48 hours of eating their parm. If you don't, you get a free meal or something. Not a great consolation prize. I made the eggplant parm, ate it for lunch and dinner for 2 straight days (because it was delicious) and labor started within that 48 hours. Granted I went into labor when I was 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant so conceivably it might have had something to do with my body just being ready but hell, it didn't hurt. Light action started Thursday evening after an afternoon of intense back pain. I thought it was my stupid unsupportive flats rather than a baby's head. Those early contractions weren't terribly painful, just different than anything is felt before. I ate Thai food with my bestie and her sister and then sent them home so I could lie on my couch and wonder if I was really in labor.
After an uncomfortable but not terribly painful night, I sent J to the grocery store for assorted sundries. Figured I needed some calories for the long day ahead. By the time he got back I basically told him to go &$@# himself with the tube of Grand's cinnamon rolls I had requested. Let's just say shit escalated in that 40 minutes. My doula, Saint Megan, came over around 10:30 and took over back-rubbing duties from my mom. During one of her back rubs, my wonderful mom asked if I wanted her to stay and keep rubbing or go back home with my dogs so she could be at the hospital when we checked in. Sensitive and kind princess that I was throughout labor, I told her that while it felt nice I didn't care if the corner store clerk took over for her. So sweet.
Water broke at 12:30 full of meconium. After that, my contractions went from super crazy shitty (technical term) to holy-fuck-kill-me-now-there-is-no-need-to-live-through-this.
The drive to the hospital took about 15 minutes tops. The second the car stopped I flung myself out and waddled into triage. A guard sang "Happy Birthday" to me as I poured sweat and paced. Turns out, his name was Henry. Two couples who looked as though they were waiting for scheduled c-sections were terrified of me and let J check me in ahead of them.
Once in the triage room, my sister Juice joined us. How things have changed. She said my moaning and expletives gave her PTSD from her labor 4 months ago. Throughout my pregnancy, I read Ina May Gaskin books, took a natural childbirth class, and sang the praises of the natural rush and immediate bonding that could only be achieved without medication. Nothing like legitimate labor to make you change your tune. My pleas for an epidural started during contractions in triage. Megan and J assured me I was doing a great job and could do it. I had a cervical check and was told I was 6 cm dilated. I realized I had probably at least 4 more hours of hard labor to get to 10 cm and hit a wall. I decided I didn't need a doula or husband, just a handsome anesthesiologist. I started begging between contractions. Once in the labor and delivery room, I got my wish (and got to keep my doula and husband). Sweet mother, that epidural saved me. It was amazing. I went from the worst pain I has ever experienced, worse than I possibly could have imagined, to total relief. I wasn't numb, I continued to contract and dilate, and I took a nap.
I am now more in awe of natural childbirth than ever. If epidural hadn't been available, I would have made it. But I didn't have to and I'm so grateful. My last words on epidural: if it wasn't in your birth plan and you succumb to her charms, you haven't failed. Labor is still very hard work. The epidural won't push your baby out for you. And the feeling of seeing and holding your baby for the first time us unbelievably incredible. It's not a narcotic, your heart, head and body are all still totally in it and you can feel. No regrets.
At 7 pm, I was 10 cm dilated and at +2 station. My parents were ushered out and we're told they'd be back to meet their grandson very soon. Famous last words. I pushed for FOUR HOURS. I'm sure that sounds awful. It wasn't the best ever but as it dragged on, the OB assured me that he was committed to my having a vagjnal birth and knew I could do it. I didn't want to have the wear and tear of pushing plus recovery from a c-section scar.
At the 4 hour mark, it was clear that our little guy had no plans of clearing my tailbone by himself. The OB used a vacuum to help him out. About 4 pushes and a whole lot of suctioning later, Henry came out sunny-side-up. Posterior occiput babies are born facing the ceiling. They can't tuck their heads and make the turns needed to clear the tailbone. It's somewhat rare. Fitting that he'd be a weirdo like his mama.
Because if the meconium, a pediatric team aspirated him and helped him pink up a but for a few minutes while J and I kissed and cried. He was only feet from us and was then brought right to my chest for skin-to-skin. Henry has lots of strawberry blond hair, beautiful lips that he hides all the time due to his lack of teeth, and gorgeous, inquisitive eyes. He weighed 6 lbs, 6 oz and was 20" long. We are ridiculously in love.
A year ago from the day he was born, I was actively miscarrying. Bleeding profusely and praying while my HCG betas bounced around wildly. And now, I have this sweet, perfect boy in my arms. I couldn't have imagined the emotional pain I'd go through in that year, nor the incredible joy. The journey is hardly over but Henry is such a triumph. I can hardly believe he's mine.