On Friday, March 2, 2012, at 9:48 a.m., our precious daughter, Rooney Jane, was born. This is the story of her birth.
Yep. That happened.
I guess I should back up to the night before, when I tweeted and Facebooked these famous last words:
Well, my false labor turned into real labor.
I had felt weird that Thursday at work. I was 38 weeks, 3 days. I started feeling contractions around 11 a.m., which wasn't entirely unusual, but this time they felt more crampy than the Braxton-Hicks I'd had before. I told a few co-workers what I was feeling and that I thought it would happen soon. I just kind of felt it, but I really had no idea what soon meant. A couple days? A week?
Around 2 p.m. I started timing my contractions. They were coming almost every five minutes and lasting for a minute. Yes, this is technically when you're supposed to call the hospital, but the contractions were not painful or getting stronger, longer or closer together, so I tried to focus on my work. On the ride home I told Eric what had been going on. But I assumed the contractions would fade away soon, as they usually did.
When we got home from work, we took this photo of my belly:
I went about my normal evening plans, addressing envelopes for our birth announcements, until the contractions became too much to ignore. Eric told me I needed to eat supper, so I poured myself a bowl of Grape Nuts.
We had a contraction-timing app up on my phone and I would tell him when to start it. Contractions are so mentally exhausting because you are trying to concentrate on what you are feeling and how long they are lasting, and of course physically they wear you out as well. I could definitely tell when they started but it was hard to know when they quit, so I would have Eric feel my belly to see if it was still as hard as it was when the contraction started. It was fun to entertain the fact that it might actually be happening.
Seeing the contractions on the graph made me a little anxious, though. I decided it was a good time to pack the hospital bag. I'd already packed Rooney's clothes and some other necessities, but Eric and I hadn't packed any clothes.
Eric came into the closet and asked me if I was really packing for the hospital. I pointed at my belly, smiled and asked, "What part of this don't you understand?"
I still wasn't sure that it was real labor, though. To distract ourselves, we got in bed, ate freeze pops and watched a couple episodes of Modern Family on the iPad. It was good to take my mind off what was going on and have a few laughs.
Then I asked Eric to google "false labor." The contractions were still five minutes apart and lasting about a minute long, but now they were getting a little stonger--painful enough for me to ask Eric for back rubs. We decided based on what we read that we didn't need to do anything different quite yet.
My phone rang, and it was my mom. She seems to have a sixth sense of when something is wrong with me, so I wondered if this was the real deal. I told her what was going on, and then decided to go to bed after I hung up with her. I was tired but wasn't sure if I would be able to sleep!
Eric fell asleep right away so I just laid there for a couple hours. This really wasn't out of the ordinary, because it had gotten harder and harder for me to sleep in the later weeks of pregnancy. I laid there wondering if and when I should wake him up. But, I eventually fell asleep around 11 p.m. and stayed asleep for a few hours.
I woke up around 3 a.m., sort of surprised that I had slept so long. I was feeling contractions, but they were pretty mild. More mild than some I had the night before. Eric woke up, too, so we just laid there together and talked. We got on our phones to pass the time. I checked my email and then read the last part of The Love Dare.
I tweeted about having "false" labor and then shut off my phone. I was fully planning on getting up at 6 a.m. and going to work, but wanted to try to rest a little more because I had only gotten four hours of sleep.
Eric got up at his normal time and took a shower. I still couldn't sleep, but I was looking forward to resting for the next hour. I was laying on my right side, thinking about what I was going to wear to work that day (I decided on this). Baby was being very active so I was trying to be in the moment and concentrate on what she was doing and what body parts I could feel.
I heard a pop.From under the covers. Down there. My eyes got big with wonder. Thankfully I had had a friend tell me he and his wife heard her water break while they were laying in bed. Before that I didn't even know that was possible. So I was pretty sure my water had broken, but I didn't feel any different. Regardless, I decided I better get up and check it out.
I got out of bed and was surprised that I didn't feel any fluid coming out. I walked to the bathroom and opened the door. Eric, who was doing his hair, turned around and looked at me. It was very unusual that I would be out of bed that early, and I could see it in his eyes that he knew that something was up.
"I think my water broke."
And sure enough, as I was standing there, some fluid trickled out.
Yep. This is happening.
I sat down on the toilet (because I had no idea what else to do). Eric called the midwives. We found out that Sea was the midwife on call, and she said to get to the hospital (20-minute drive from our house) within the hour. We had only met Sea once, and it was just for a few minutes. I had heard good things about her, but I was kind of bummed that someone I didn't know very well would be delivering my baby.
Eric and I were trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we were really going to be parents. He called my sister, who was hoping to be at the delivery, and she said she could be on her way (40-minute drive) after her youngest daughter's day care opened at 7:30.
I called my mom. It wasn't part of the plan for me to call anyone when I was in labor, but I had a crazy rush of feelings and an urge to talk to my momma. My sister was already on the phone with her when I called, so she knew my water had broken.
Eric asked if he could make some toast for breakfast. I agreed, and then decided to get up (I wasn't leaking much fluid), finish packing, and put on some makeup and clothes. We took our time getting ready. I had envisioned us rushing around with our heads cut off, but we were pretty calm. I am so glad I had made a list of specific things to pack and grab when the time came, because I had a lot of other things to think about.
We weren't planning to live-tweet the birth, but we felt in that moment that we needed the power of prayer. I was on a natural high or in shock or something because I didn't feel any contractions for about 40 minutes after my water broke. But when Eric walked back in the room after eating breakfast he found me on the bed on my hands and knees. The few contractions I did feel before we left were pretty intense. In between I finished packing and reviewed my notes from our birth class.
Before we left home we decided to recreate a photo of my parents when my mom was pregnant with me. I had always wanted to do it, and knew this was our last chance! It took us about six tries to get it right.
But we pretty much nailed it, apart from the plaid shirt and photos on the wall:
We finally left home for the hospital. I think I ate a Fiber One bar on the way and a glass of water to stay hydrated. We also took this video right after leaving our house:
After we shot that video, the contractions got a bit more serious, and I was wishing we had left home about 20 minutes earlier. I reclined the seat and remember watching the clock to see when the next one would come. They were coming every three minutes and I tried to breathe through them and imagine that I was on a beach instead of on the interstate.
I was doing pretty well and announced to Eric when I was proud of how I'd gotten through them. The contractions were all about the same intensity but I was definitely coping with some of them better than others. It was all about meditating and breathing and relaxing. Halfway to the hospital, I told Eric that I thought it was time to call Bridget, our friend and photographer.
We got to the hospital and I was slightly annoyed with Eric because we kind of got lost on the way. Not that it was entirely his fault, but we had never made the drive straight from our house to the maternity entrance and I felt like that was kind of his job. It's not like it was a joyride for me in the first place.
But we found it, parked and walked in together. Then I was annoyed at the people who got in the elevator with us because we had to stop at their two floors before making it up to the maternity ward. I was thinking, Excuse me, but I am in labor right now. Please get off my elevator. Thankfully we had taken a tour of the hospital so we knew where to go once we were up there.
We walked in and it's amazing how they can make you feel like you're not really in labor. I'm sure they are trained to remain calm, but I kind of would have liked someone to make a bigger deal out of the fact that I was going to be delivering a baby that day.
The nurses at the front desk (there were at least eight of them just sitting there...staring at us) asked if I had preregistered online...which I had. But I guess it did not go through. So we were asked a few questions and then sent to triage.
I put on the gown and stole a rubber band from a drawer in the triage room because silly me had forgotten a hair tie. It seemed like forever until a nurse came to talk to us. But she was pretty and nice, named Jamie. It was clear that my body was going into shock because I felt shaky. I was able to talk through the contractions, but it felt best if I was on my hands and knees on the bed. It was pretty obvious to me that the pain was getting worse.
Jamie asked what I wanted for pain management. I told her that I was planning to do it without any medication, but...that I didn't know. I wasn't ready to order an epidural, but I also hadn't been checked yet so I wasn't sure what we were looking at.
I finally got checked. Jamie confirmed that my water had broken and I was dilated to 5½...and that by checking me she had moved me to 6 cm (which I didn't even know was possible). Looking back I realize this is great, but I had been 3 cm dilated and 90% effaced for a week and a half and I was a little disappointed that I wasn't at 7 or 8 now. I felt a little nervous thinking about how much the pain would increase from this point on.
Jamie called the midwives to let them know I would be admitted, and found out that the midwives switch on-call duties at 7 a.m. Pam, our favorite midwife, was coming on call. I was so excited and comforted by that!
Jamie left us to get our hospital room ready for us, and I had the urge to pee. I found the bathroom and discovered that it felt amazing just to sit on the toilet with the way it positioned my pelvic bones. There was blood in the stool and that concerned me a little, so I made Eric call Jamie and she said that was perfectly normal since I had just been checked. I stayed in the bathroom for 5-10 minutes until we were transferred to our hospital room.
I remember being so scared of walking from triage to our room because I didn't want to have a contraction on the way. I didn't think I'd be able to walk through it. But I made it, and Eric came in shortly after. I think he was signing papers for the epidural in case I did ask for it.
When we got to the room, it was snowing outside. Big flakes. I hoped we wouldn't have to bring her home in a snow storm, but it looked very pretty to see the flakes coming down. I was disappointed that we had not gotten a cityscape room and instead would have the exciting view of a brick wall. But in the end I think this provided a more calming experience than the hubbub of the city would have.
I immediately assumed the hands and knees position on the bed. Jamie tried to put in my penicillin IV (to protect the baby from group B strep, which I had tested positive for a number of weeks earlier). This was terrible. I hate IVs and have small veins. She blew out the vein in my hand and called in another nurse to try one in the side of my wrist because she didn't want to blow that one, too. It was so hard to sit still during this. Luckily she got it so I could then get up and move around.
Our photographer and friend Bridget arrived at the hospital shortly after. I remember hearing her as she walked in (she has a very recognizable voice and laugh) and feeling so happy that she had made it and could start documenting the journey.
At this point I was getting hot. I remember asking for cold washcloths and ice chips but that someone else would have to get them because I didn't want Eric to leave my side. I think Jamie then asked if I wanted to try the exercise ball.
YES, I would. Thank you for asking.
The ball was amazing at taking away the pain. I remember sitting on it, bouncing and shifting my pelvis--and compared to what I'd felt before it was like I was in heaven. I said, "I could do this all day." It totally took away the pressure. There were even some smiles:
All was great, aside from the burning in my forearm from the IV. Ugh. I complained about it enough for Jamie to slow it down, although they didn't really want to because they wanted to get in two doses before delivery. At this point I already knew that probably wasn't going to happen.
While on the ball I remember asking for Pam. They told me she was going to shower and then come in. Seriously? I was a little upset. I didn't care what she looked like, I needed her. Call me high maintenance, but I needed everyone to make a bigger deal out of what was going on.
My sister arrived at the hospital. I remember being so happy and telling her that I wanted her to be there so badly. I think Pam showed up around the same time, too. My contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes at this point.
I felt a need to pee again. I walked to the bathroom but didn't make it. Luckily I was already wearing those magnificent hospital mesh underwear and pads. I remember saying it felt so good to pee. Haha. I decided just to stay in the bathroom and try to cope with a few contractions on the toilet again. Sitting down no longer relieved the pain, though, so I was leaning and breathing into a pillow when the contractions came.
Pam asked if I wanted to try the whirlpool. That was really the first I had seen or heard from her. As much as I had originally thought I would want a water birth, the tub sounded very unattractive to me. Maybe because it was just a normal-sized bathtub with jets and not a true birthing tub. Regardless, I agreed to try it.
Pam asked if I wanted to be checked again while they filled the tub with water, and I did. I was 8 cm. As I got in the tub, Pam reminded me that they don't do water births so if I felt like pushing I would have to get out. Everyone left Eric and I alone in the bathroom.
I got in the tub and it was warm. Too warm. They added some cold water and I got on my knees with Eric rubbing my back. I wasn't sure how to get comfortable in there, and I had also gotten distracted with all that was going on. I screamed loud through the next two contractions. Like how they scream in the movies. It was terrible. I found out later that my mom was on the phone with my sister during the time and she said it was so hard for her to hear me screaming like that.
During next contraction I felt the urge to push, so I did. I couldn't fight it. While I was doing it I yelled to Pam, "I'm PUSHING!" Time to get out. I was pretty naive and thought she'd be born in the next 10 minutes.
I got out of the tub and was checked again.
9 centimeters. Almost there.
The gown came off when I went in the bathtub and it was not coming back on. I was so hot and asking for fresh, cold washcloths for my forehead. Eric was still feeding me ice chips for hydration. My sister saved the day by putting a real hair tie in my hair. And she was fanning me with a magazine, which I couldn't even feel. I only knew she was doing it because Eric asked me if she should continue.
I tried tackling a few contractions on my hands and knees (which is how I had thought I would want to push her out), and that position was not relieving the pain as it was before. I remember making a joke about how everyone was getting a good show. Honestly, I didn't even care that I was completely naked and out in the open.
I remember Pam coming over, putting her face close to mine and asking what I wanted to do. I told her I want to be done! Everyone got a good laugh at that. I decided to flip back over to my back. And then I said something like, "Is anyone having fun right now?", which got a few smiles. I felt like I was coping OK, but I was really ready to be done.
They checked me again and I am fully dilated. Those are glorious words to hear, I tell ya. Let's do this thing.
I start pushing hard. And it turns out I am terrible at it. I had no idea what I was doing, so I was very inefficient at first. Turns out screaming does not help either. I guess I should have paid more attention to this part in our birth class. I figured how hard could it be? Well. I lived through it to tell you that it is hard work.
At some point I asked Pam how much longer and she looks at the clock and says, "Mmm...maybe 15 minutes."
Seventeen minutes later, we tried using the squat bar. Talk about uncomfortable. And unstable. I was tired and it was getting difficult to move my body in any direction because the baby was so low. So that position only lasted one contraction. And sadly, during that one I lost control of my bowels. I blame the squat bar.
I went back to laying on my left side and flipping to my back when the contraction came. After a few pushes I started to get the hang of it. The key for me was to have someone hold each of my legs (Eric on the left, Kari on the right) and as they push back, I leaned forward into a C shape and grabbed my knees and flexed my abs and pushed like I was having a(nother) bowel movement.
The hard part then was figuring out how and when to breathe. Apparently you are supposed to push as hard and long as you can, take a little teeny tiny baby breath and then do it again. And then again. And again.
There was no counting to 10, which I've heard about from others. I was supposed to push myself as hard as I could. I got better as time went on at getting three or four pushes in with each contractions. Sometimes everyone would encourage me to push again and I had to inform them that the contraction had ended. Time to rest.
Around this time, in between contractions, I told Pam that she's the one that I wanted, and she replied that she was happy she could be there.
Pushing takes away the pain of the uterus contraction and then you feel a new pain--getting a baby's head through your pelvic bones and out a 4" hole. With the baby's head so far down in my pelvic cavity at this point, the in-between contractions is almost more painful than the pushing. I remember asking why it hurt so bad down there, and Pam explains that that's where her head is.
I was also feeling a little tugging in my left abs from the awkward way I was laying and pain/numbness under my left hip bone. I think Eric was pushing my left leg up so good that it cut off circulation. It was too hard for me to adjust my body to remove the ab pain so I just stayed where I was.
Again I ask Pam how much longer until we're done, and she guesses 15 minutes. See what she's doing there? Lying to me. And it was good that she did.
I remember feeling scared at how quickly things were happening, and crying between contractions. "I'm so scared." I even said that I didn't want to have a baby. A little late there, Kels.
They asked if I want a mirror so I can see what's going on. I hesitantly agreed. As unappealing as it sounded, I'd heard it helps motivate some women. It was more distracting for me than anything. I honestly was trying to figure out what I was supposed to be looking at. Also in the mirror I could tell that I had torn. I couldn't feel it, though. I could also see that Pam was doing a great job at using a warm rag to rub the area so it would stretch more easily.
They announce that my baby has brown hair. Once her head is staying out between contractions, they asked if I want to touch her head. I hesitantly agree. I touch it and make the most disgusted face. Everyone laughed. It felt soft, rippled, wet, hairy and a triangle shape. Not exactly as I had imagined my dear baby's head would be.
I think I was breaking Eric's back by how I made him bend over the bed. He was lifting me into the C shape, which was extremely helpful. I didn't have the ab strength or control at that point. I finally opened my eyes and saw that he was sobbing. It made me realize that what we were doing was amazing. I felt one of his tears hit my arm, and just wanted to comfort him. Oh man. I can't imagine what it felt like for him to see me in such pain.
I could tell that I'd figured out how to push effectively and am pushing longer and more times with each contraction. It was like a little game to see how well I could do. Everyone is so encouraged by my progress at this point and telling me how good I am doing. This energizes me but I also knew I had little left in me and that I really needed to stay focused. I kept my eyes closed so I could stay in my head and not get distracted. I figured I had at least a few more pushes ahead of me to get her out.
Another contraction came, and then, after almost 50 minutes of pushing, Rooney Jane Williams entered the world and was placed on my chest, where she stayed for nearly a half hour.
Physically I instantly feel so relieved. That was the most powerful emotion that I felt. Relief.
I chose to love her, but it was not a feeling I was overcome with. I just wanted to close my eyes and rest in the fact that she was here and appeared healthy. She was crying really loud, and even had tears on her face, which they said was a really good sign. I was glad to hear her crying so well because I know that first breath is very difficult for babies and she had just been through something traumatic. So had I. We just laid there and cried together.
Pam announced that it was, in fact, a girl, and that she was peeing on me. I couldn't feel it. I just remember trying to look at her and check her out and learn what her body looked like. She was purple in color and because she was on my chest, I could hardly see her facial features. So I just laid back and took it all in.
I was hanging on to Eric's hand as we cried together and he examined our daughter for the first time. We announced her name. It was an amazing rush of feelings and mixed emotions. She felt so good on my chest, skin-to-skin. It was a beautiful moment.
But it's not over. There are still some not-fun things to do. I delivered the placenta and Pam finished stitching me up.
I had a second-degree tear and Pam was initially quite worried that it was a funky tear and had gone all the way through. But, after a quick rectal exam she determined it was OK. This part was uncomfortable and I remember asking her how much longer she would be working on it. I was probably focusing more on that than I should have been, but it definitely helped to have my new sweet baby girl as a distraction.
They measure Rooney at 8 pounds, 8.2 ounces and 20.75 inches long. At first I heard her weight as 8 pounds, 2 ounces -- and I thought that was huge. Then I heard it correctly. She was a pound bigger than I thought she'd be! But I knew she was perfect and exactly as God had wanted her to be.
- My labor went exactly as I had planned and hoped it would -- fast and drug-free. I feel lucky and proud of that, but now I know that maybe you don't always know what you want. It was a whirlwind and an out-of-body experience. It went so fast--maybe too fast--that I wouldn't say I was able to relax and enjoy the birthing experience. I feel like I didn't celebrate her arrival in the best way; I mostly celebrated that I was done. From the time my water broke until she was born was four and a half hours. Afterward, I remember being so relieved that it was over...and that I didn't have to do it again anytime soon. I'm really proud that I did it without medication, but I'm not sure if I want to do it again that way. (If you've done it both ways, I'm curious of your thoughts!)
- I am so happy that I tried a bunch of different positions. I experienced back labor and relied heavily on pelvic movement to cope with the contractions. Standing and rocking my hips and rocking on the birthing ball were the best positions for me.
- The only monitoring they did during labor and delivery was Rooney's heart beat. My contractions were not monitored. Because of this, I felt completely in control of the experience and was directing the show and when it was time to push again. That was pretty cool and empowering. The only downside for me about this was that people would try to talk to me during the oncoming of a contraction, which was distracting because it was necessary for me to keep focused on breathing and coping with the pain.
- Eric was amazing and stuck to his game plan. He basically gave me a three-hour back rub to help me cope with the back labor. I only yelled at him once (when I was sitting on the toilet because he was talking to me during a bad contraction, and I couldn't focus), which I found out later had really hurt his feelings. But he stuck with me. It is amazing to me to think about the fact that for much of the labor, it was just him and me together to get through the contractions (everyone else gathered around once I started pushing). We did it. For weeks we had practiced and studied for it, and then we did it. Just the two of us. Together. We did it. I am convinced that we can do anything.
- Based on the fact that I was making jokes throughout the delivery and had everyone laughing, I think I was dealing with the trauma of the situation in that way. I had my eyes closed nearly the entire time and just tried to focus inward on my breathing and accepting the pain rather than fighting it.
- I was completely happy with my experience with the Methodist Midwives and plan to use their services again if we are so blessed with another child (see also: 5 Reasons We Chose a Midwife).
- I am so glad my sister and photographer/friend Bridget were able to make it. I'm sure I don't even know half of what they did (it included bringing in all our stuff from the car and keeping the timeline of events), but I am so thankful that it worked out for them to be there and that they both took time off work for me.
- The word epidural was only spoken once (by Jamie in triage), but it was running through my head the entire time. I envisioned the title of this blog post would be "I Had an Epidural, and I Liked It." But, the contractions just kept coming, quicker and quicker, and I kept coping. They were coming so fast that I knew I would not enjoy sitting still long enough to have it done.
- We didn't have any visitors (besides my sister) for about four hours after Roo was born. I am so glad we had that time as a family. Although I didn't get a nap, I did get to eat lunch and rest and let things quiet down a bit. One of the day's sweetest moments was during this time when my sister, Rooney, Eric and I huddled up and Eric said a prayer over us. And we have been praying ever since.
Photos by Bridget Purdy Photography.