This is the story of Luca's birth. Giving birth to Luca is the most incredible and beautiful thing I've ever done. The process itself is not pretty though. I've tried to include every detail I could remember because it's important to me. This means I will be talking about highly personal things like mucus plug, bloody show, cervix and pain, in a highly personal way. So please don't read any further if you don't want to think about these things.
Still with me? Alrighty. Here we go.
As I had mentioned in an earlier post, my Dr. was on vacation for a week, two weeks before my due date of April 6. Before he left, he said that my cervix was soft but not open at all. He felt I still had plenty of time but I should take it easy while he was gone, just in case. Specifically, he told me no heavy lifting, no squatting, no jumping up and down -- not even stairs! I had been taking the stairs every day at work throughout the day - 3 flights - and walking a lot up until that Dr. visit. In fact, I think I even opted for the stairs on that specific Dr. visit.
He had me make the first available appointment on the Monday he was back in the office, which turned out to be April 1, 10:00 am. I was on maternity leave and we spent the time getting the house ready. Well, Sergio did all the heavy lifting. I was pretty much just trying to stay comfortable. The morning of my appointment, I woke up early at around 5:15 am to go pee (per usual) and I was pretty sure my mucus plug had come out. There was some blood/spotting. I told Sergio there was a good chance it was my "bloody show." At 5:22 am I began to experience what felt like very mild period cramps. Really mild. The kind you can usually forget about if you're watching TV or just keeping busy. Could these be contractions? I was pretty sure they were. I hopped online real quick to see how much time we had from bloody show until full labor and I guess it could be up to a week. I was excited and a bit nervous but knowing it could be a week helped me keep calm. Sergio started the contraction tracking app on his phone. I continued to experience the mild "cramps" for about 4 hours. They were never consistent in length or regularity and by around 8:50 am, they had subsided.
Note on my phone from that day:
Dated April 1, 2013, 8:55 AM Maybe today's the day. Bloody show at around 515am. Menstrual cramps at 522 Continuous short mild "contractions" for about 4 hrs. Symptoms subsided at around 850amWe arrived at the Dr. office on time and I told the front desk that I had been feeling what I thought were contractions. They asked about regularity and didn't seem especially concerned. We were so excited to ask the Dr. when he thought the baby would arrive. Well, he checked me and I was already at 3 centimeters! Wow! That was unexpected and exciting! He didn't say much more in the exam room - just told me to get dressed and meet him out in the office.
He took us into his private office where we had been for the first time just a little over a week prior when he told us he was going on vacation. He began talking about what to expect when I went into labor and was very reassuring and calm. He said some women are already screaming from pain when they are at 3 so I was doing really well. He said, come back at 7:00 and check in. Sergio and I looked at each other and I think I actually said, we're going to check in tomorrow! The Dr. said he didn't want us to go through the stress of being in labor and in the car, rushing to the hospital. It's better to be a little early... We quickly realized he meant 7:00 pm that night! What?!? Wow! Whoa! I think I actually said, "Wait, you mean 7:00 TONIGHT?" Yes. He said, go home, rest, have a good dinner and come back - exactly what we overheard him tell another patient the last time we were there. He would be walking my charts down to the maternity ward around lunch time. They would be ready for me when we came in. I asked specifically if he wanted to induce me. He said "No, your body is naturally inducing itself."
Ohmygod.Ohmygod.This is going to happen.
We walked out of the office and I was in a bit of a daze. While waiting for the elevator, I turned to Sergio, "We could have our baby tonight!" It was so exciting and scary for me.
We called our doula when we got home to relay all the information from our visit. She seemed concerned that the Dr. wanted us to check in so early if it wasn't for induction. But, she had worked with this Dr. in the past and respects and trusts him 100%. If he wants us to go in at 7:00 then he has a reason. But she told us that I needed to take it easy and take a nap. We needed to slow or stop these contractions - which I had begun feeling again when we got home.
Sergio went to Blue Hen to pick up four meals, lunch and then dinner for later. We had banh mi for lunch with spring rolls. Which, I think we ate in bed! I took a nap that managed to stop the contractions. But they began again right around when I had my pho for dinner at around 545?
I experienced a few contractions in the car. They were not that bad but being strapped in with the seatbelt definitely made it worse.
When we arrived at the hospital, Carmen was waiting for us, birthing ball in tow. We went through the big double doors, the nurses asked how they could help us. I said we were checking in. Dr. Wu told us to check in and he said he was going to bring my charts down. They found my name on the list and we had pre-registered so there was no paperwork to fill out. They said they were expecting us and had a room ready.
As we were walking to the room, the nurse began talking about induction and starting my IV etc. I quickly said no, I'm not being induced. Dr. Wu specifically said I wasn't going to be. In fact, I as going to try this naturally. She looked confused. She said that usually, when a Dr. has someone come in early, it's to be induced. Carmen asked me to repeat exactly what Dr. Wu said during the visit that morning. I said that I was already at 3 centimeters and that he wanted us checked in at 7:00. The nurse didn't seem convinced and said well, I don't want to get you all checked in and an IV started for no reason if you're not going to be induced. He might come check you and tell you to go home for the night. She asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to speak to Dr. Wu before we did anything. She asked, "Are you even having contractions?" This perplexed me. But I guess I was not outwardly exhibiting any pain so she couldn't be sure. "Yes. I think I am. They feel like period cramps right?" She still looked unconvinced. She gave me a gown and a bag for my clothes. While I was changing, Sergio and Carmen were discussing how to proceed while we waited for Dr. Wu. My goal was to experience the birth naturally. No chemical intervention at all if possible. I was not completely closed to the idea of an epidural but I was going to do my best to try without. They hooked me up to the monitoring machine. "Well, I can see you really are having contractions." It was the oddest thing to watch the little needle jump up and down as it marked each contraction on a long scroll of paper. Like a machine drawn receipt for the labor progression paid for in pain. But you know, the pain wasn't that bad just yet. Carmen kept asking me to compare it to the worst period cramps I ever had in my life. If that was a 7, what was this contraction? "Um. A 2? Maybe a 3?" Her eyes widened incredulously each time. Honestly, they were not that bad in the beginning.
She began the work to help me progress. I did various exercises involving the birthing ball, pacing, hip rocking, gyrating, and even going to pee. She and Sergio were a team and I felt safe and secure with them by my side. She said, "Let's hope we're at 5 when Dr. Wu comes to check you. He'll probably strip your membranes." The entire time she was telling us stories, making the time pass. She's been a doula/midwife for 22 years. That woman has some incredible birth stories.
We can't remember clearly but we think Dr. Wu finally showed up around 9. He checked me and said I was at 7. Wow. Carmen was impressed. Well, at this rate, I could have the baby before midnight!
That's why the Dr. asked us to check in at 7. Carmen said that's the reason -- he knew I would progress quickly. Thank goodness he had us come in early!
He left and Carmen continued the work to help the labor along. The pain was still not excruciating and Carmen was impressed again. If I could get to 7 and still consider the pain to be less than my worst period cramps, then I should be able to have the baby without epidural with no problem. My pain threshold is apparently very high. And that I must've had the "mother of all period cramps."
Hours passed, my water broke. The pain increased significantly. As the clock ticked past midnight, I seemed to be stuck at about 8 almost 9 centimeters. There was a "lip" on my cervix that was not softening. And they needed that lip gone for me to start pushing. They didn't understand why the lip wouldn't soften.
Time seemed to ebb and flow like tide with each contraction. I was propelled into what was for me, uncharted pain territory. We had blown past the worst period cramps mark. They kept checking me and trying to manually soften the lip. This meant they were putting their hands inside of me to measure and push at the lip. This was the worst. Most awful thing ever. Ever. Especially if they were in there during a contraction. I lost all track of time. I was nearly screaming during the contractions. Carmen and Sergio were doing all they could to keep me focused. I was trying so hard to focus. I was trying so hard to breathe. Sergio was holding my hand, so loving and supportive. Carmen was doing all she could to get that lip to soften. I think maybe at the early morning hours they checked and I was all the way at 9.5! But the lip was still there. And they could feel the baby starting to turn the wrong direction, facing outward to the right instead of down. They would have to manually turn the baby back, maybe use the suction. I was so tired. There were whispers of c-section. The pain rocked my body like it was going to split in half. I finally asked for the epidural.
Thankfully the anesthesiologist was right down the hall. They prepped me and she came in quickly to give me the shot. The instant the needle touched my skin my back involuntarily reversed arched deeply. "She can't do that! She can't do that!" she nearly yelled. Carmen held me and told me I needed to be still. "I know, I know. I couldn't help it!" I tried not to think of the needle going into my spine and what could happen if it went wrong. Carmen told me to arch my back like a cat and she held my face. She looked right at me and breathed with me. I could feel a contraction swelling and I was absolutely terrified. Carmen held onto me tight though, both physically and with her eyes. I think that might have been the worst moment. I can't really remember if the needle hurt. I'm sure it did, but the pain from not being able to move through a contraction was everything in my world at that moment.
Then, so quickly the pain just stopped. I couldn't feel my legs or feet. I touched my thigh and it was funny. My fingers felt my leg but my leg didn't feel my fingers. It was like how your cheek or lip feels when the dentist numbs it. I couldn't move my legs either. They still needed to get that lip on my cervix to disappear and kept putting me in various positions to help it along. The nurse or Carmen would have to move my legs for me. Now, it didn't matter how many times they checked me or manually worked on me inside. I didn't feel a thing. They also had to give me pitocin at this point to induce contractions. My uterus was so tired it just wasn't contracting very much anymore through the epidural. Pitocin induced contractions are typically more painful than natural contractions. Thankfully they made sure the epidural had taken effect before I received the pitocin. They told me to get a couple hours rest and try to sleep so I could be ready to push when the sun came up and the Dr. was back in the office. I tried to sleep but I was shivering so hard from the hormones. It's a natural reaction apparently. The shivering was so severe, I could feel the muscles in my neck getting sore from tensing.
I think at around 9:00 am, they began prepping the room for birth. They wheeled a table over that had been waiting, covered, at the edge of the room. It held various instruments the Dr. would need. They opened the secondary curtain wide. The bed was adjusted. At around 9:30 am the nurse came to check me again. The lip was still there. I was so disappointed. She set about working on it. She was chatting with Carmen while she did it when she suddenly stopped and said, "I got it. I can honestly say she's fully dilated at 10!" She was able to push the lip back somehow and I was ready.
It was time to have the baby! With Sergio on my left and Carmen on my right, I began to push. The nurse was in front of me, guiding the baby. It was the oddest thing. I couldn't feel anything. I couldn't see what was happening so Carmen and Sergio kept me updated. I guess I was doing well because the baby was coming quickly. After maybe three big pushes, they said the head was there! I asked Sergio if he could see the head and he said yes. They told me to reach down to feel my baby's head. I felt a soft head, full of hair. I began to get emotional. Carmen saw this and quickly shut it down. I couldn't lose it at that point. I needed to keep focused. I still had work to do. It was happening so quickly that they told me to stop pushing because they had to go get the Dr. I guess these days, the nurses do a lot of the work with you and the Dr. steps in to "catch the baby." Despite me no longer pushing, the baby continued to ease out on his own, naturally. The Dr. needed to be there ASAP. From what I could gather on the nurse's end of the phone conversation, I think the Dr. told her that he would be a few minutes. The nurses almost yelled there's no time, the baby's head is crowning right now! Moments later the Dr. was rushing in, pulling on his gown and gloves. He sat down and it was time to push again. Carmen told me to do exactly as the Dr. said. After a couple pushes he told me to stop. He wanted to slow it down to prevent tearing. I waited.
When Dr. Wu told me to start pushing again I didn't hear him. Carmen repeated the instruction. So I did. After just a few pushes, I heard a great big gush of liquid and the baby was born! They immediately put him on my chest and it was like my life came into sharp focus on the little wriggling human. That moment was indescribable. He was so small and so perfect. Carmen told us to start talking to him immediately - he would recognize us and I suppose to enhance the bonding process. I vaguely remember the Dr. telling Sergio to cut the umbilical cord. I vaguely recall noting the Dr. working on stitches - Carmen said it was a very tiny, tiny minor tear. I only had eyes and ears for Luca. I really didn't care what else was happening around me or to me at the moment. My entire world had contracted yet again, not from pain this time but into that small magical space around me and our baby. It took me a few moments before I even looked up at Sergio. When I did, I felt it. And I know he felt it too -- even though I haven't talked about it with him. That second when we looked at each other, our just born baby cradled in my arms, we were one. I kept saying, "My baby, my baby!" We laugh now that I switched to "our baby" after I looked up at Sergio.