Here’s the second (and final) birth story I will write. This one isn’t as long, or as hard, but it is just as special and just as beautiful.
Here we go:
We did all of our prenatal care with the Birth Center again. We had such an incredible experience with them that we knew we would use them again if we could. They give the most loving, intelligent, focused, and respectful care possible. I have complete trust in all the midwives – that they will help us make the right decisions for our whole family, all along the way.
One of the policies they have is that you can’t deliver at the Birth Center past 41 weeks. If you pass 41 weeks, you will deliver at the hospital, but still with a midwife.
Once we passed the due date, I felt like the clock started ticking. We had a couple non-stress tests as we got to the end of the 41st week. We discussed our options. We could wait and see, or schedule an easy induction.
I had really wanted to have a natural, non-medical birth with as few interventions as possible. Once I knew we would be out of the tranquil Birth Center atmosphere, I felt like it didn’t really matter anymore. At our non-stress test appointment on August 19th, we talked to Emily, the midwife, about what everything would look like. Here’s the thing – the midwives all take turns being on-call. Whomever is on-call while you are in labor is the midwife who is present for the birth. As I have said, I respect and have faith in all the midwives. But, there is one who I never really felt like I meshed well with. She was always sort of negative in our appointments, and that rubbed me the wrong way. I had loved how positive and supportive both Hilary and Patricia had been during Alma’s labor and delivery. I wanted that kind of support again, and wasn’t sure this midwife could provide that. I looked at the calendar and saw that she wouldn’t be on-call until much later in the week. So with all the information Emily gave me, and the on-call schedule, we decided to induce the following night.
The schedule looked perfect. First, when we would be checking in, would be Hilary. Then Chris would come on early the next morning, then Hilary again. I think Patricia was after Hilary. I figured there was no way on Earth I could go longer than that, especially with an induction. We left the appointment excited and feeling ready. We knew that it would be mere days until we would meet Harriet.
August 20th, 2013
All day long I had been feeling contractions, but I figured they weren’t real. I had thought I was going into labor the week before, so I was determined to be more patient. I also knew that we’d be heading to the hospital later that night, so I might as well just wait and see. I didn’t tell anyone I was feeling the intense, increasingly obviously-labor contractions all day.
We had dinner at my dad’s house. The contractions were getting pretty intense during dinner, but I still tried to ignore them and wait and see.
We left Alma with my dad and step-mom. It was strange saying goodbye to her. I knew we wouldn’t see her again until we had her sister in our arms. I felt sad saying goodbye.
Jesse and I went home to finish packing up. We were expecting a new Kindle to be delivered that night, and really wanted it for the downtime during and after labor. Luckily, it was delivered while we were at my dad’s. We got it all set up and headed down to the hospital. It’s funny, the things we think are important in these big life moments.
When we got the hospital, we didn’t really know what to do. It was about 9:30 at night, so the lobby was pretty quiet. I remember that by this point the contractions were pretty hard. I wanted to lean against the counter, but I was still trying to play it cool. There were some people talking to the information guy who would check in. They kept talking and talking and talking. I remember thinking, “Come on, people! Don’t you see this enormously pregnant woman standing here with bags? Isn’t it obvious we have places to go and people to bring into the world?!?!” Finally he checked us in and called a Labor and Delivery person down to escort us up.
When she got down to the lobby, she acted all put out that we were there. Apparently she hadn’t been notified about the induction and said something like, “Well, since you’re here, I guess you can come up.” I couldn’t believe it. Here we were, all excited and happy.
We got to our room, which happened to be right next door to where Alma was born. We could hear another baby being born in that room.
We got checked in, they got an IV port in my hand, and checked my progress. I was already at 4 cms, and the monitor showed a big contraction every seven minutes, with another small one somewhere between the big ones. The nurse agreed that I was definitely in early labor and called Hilary to see what she suggested. Hilary decided that we should hold off on the induction, and that we could go home to labor if we wanted. I figured – since I was given the choice, and I already had been poked and hooked up to things, and I hated the back and forth during Alma’s labor – that we would just stay.
They put the wireless monitors on me and told us both to go to sleep. This was about 10:30 pm. I told Jesse he should sleep, and I did my best to sleep as well. I’m pretty sure Jesse got a couple good hours of sleep. I dozed and tried, but I never really fell asleep.
August 21, 2013
I woke up around midnight feeling like labor was really, truly upon me. While I know that some people are against constant monitoring, I sort of loved watching the contractions coming and going. It was a clear, tangible sign of what I was feeling. And I loved the comfort of hearing the constant whoosh of Harriet’s little heartbeat. I had a strong sense that we were in this together, and loved to hear her. Sometimes she would move a little bit, and I would lose her heartbeat. I loved moving the monitor around until I found her again. We were both working really hard to get into each others’ arms, and I could feel that energy flowing.
I was trying to concentrate on just breathing during each contraction. I didn’t visualize anything like I did with Alma. I would just find a point in the room to focus on, and breathe deeply until the contraction passed. I often looked at a doorstop high up on the wall.
I thought it was interesting that I wanted to do it on my own. I loved that Jesse was able to sleep. I knew I would need him later, when things got serious, so I wanted him to rest as much as possible. With Alma, I always wanted an outside helper, rubbing my back, talking me through contractions. This time around, I just wanted to be alone, turn inward, be with Harriet.
I did this for about a half hour before I decided to get into the tub. I remember the hot water being great at managing my pain during my first labor.
Jesse came in and sat with me while I was in the tub. I think I was in the bath from about 12:30- 1 or 1:30. I was able to doze a little bit between contractions, then I would grab Jesse’s hand and focus on the faucet during the contractions.
When I got out of the bath, I went to stand by the sink. I knew I was doing it, I was handling things well, I was focused. Things were moving more quickly than with Alma – much more quickly. By 2 I was already 6 cms, and contractions were coming quickly and lasting a long time. They were coming one after another.
There was a moment where I was having a contraction and I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this?” Why was I putting myself through the pain? Here’s the thing – I had seen the Rikki Lake movie just like everyone, so I knew the risks of intervention. But I also had the perspective of our birth class instructor who told us that there is a time and a place for all the interventions. I knew that without the epidural and pitocin that I got with Alma, it might have ended quite differently.
It was the middle of the night, and I was tired. I asked for an epidural at 2:30. I got the epidural at 3:00. I had the same moment of panic and loss of control that I had once I decided to get the epidural. It’s pretty horrible – you finally make the decision that will lead to not having to feel the pain anymore – then you have to wait, all the while feeling contractions. It’s hard not to lose focus. Hilary came in and we talked about how it was going very well. She agreed that an epidural would be a good thing. I was able to sleep a little bit, and Jesse was able to sleep well.
I kept waking up and checking the clock. I knew that Hilary was going off her shift at 7, so I really wanted to have Harriet before then. Sometime in this stretch my water broke.
At 5:00, Hilary came in and checked me. Only 8 cm.
At 7:00, Hilary and Chris were both there for the shift change. They found that I was almost ready, but that my cervix was swollen, but that I was at 9 or 10 cm. Hilary gave me a hug, wished me luck, and left me in Chris’s hands.
At 8:00, Chris had me do a couple practice pushes. She worked on my cervix to get it out of the way since it was still a little swollen.
At 8:45, Jesse was awake and it was time for me to start pushing for real. Chris guessed it would take about a half an hour. I was so encouraged and ready. I remembered some of the good, powerful pushes from my first labor. I was determined to make all my pushes as strong. I would often push 4 or 5 times, sometimes more.
By 9:15, I was wondering why it was taking so long. Chris thought that Harriet was turned in a funny way, and that her shoulder might be in the wrong position. She called to have the OB on call wait outside the door (this happened to be the wife of an old friend from high school, and I was happy to sort of know the OB who might be helping out).
At 9:45, I finally pushed Harriet’s head out. She had her hand up by her face when she came out, so I think that’s why it was harder, and taking longer. I helped catch her, and brought her right to my chest. She was beautiful, but a little bit blue. She wasn’t making much noise, and was pretty limp and somewhat unresponsive. I had wanted to delay cutting the cord until stopped pulsing, but Chris thought Harriet needed some help. She had Jesse cut the cord, then took Harriet into a little room right next to the delivery room. I looked at Jesse and told him to go with her. Chris also told the nurse to call the NICU team down. At this point, I got pretty nervous. It was strange to have Harriet taken away right away. I was just very happy that Jesse was with her.
After a couple minutes, Jesse came out and gave me the thumbs up and told me she was okay. I knew she would be, but it was still scary. In fact, she was fine by the time the NICU team was there. Chris just waved the oxygen mask in front of Harriet’s mouth and nose and she perked up.
She came back to me, and nursed right away. She was so beautiful, and perfect, and different.
Mom brought Alma back to the room. Alma seemed upset and confused. I think it was strange to see me in the strange bed, holding another baby. It was amazing to me to see her as someone else. She went from being my baby Alma, to being a big girl, a big sister.
And Then We Were Four.
That’s the end of the story, but it’s also the beginning. That’s the story of how we became the family that we are now.
Hilary and Chris were both able to come visit us during the day. One of my regrets from Alma’s birth was that I didn’t get a picture of Hilary holding her. I decided that having a photo of Hilary holding Harriet would be almost as good. So below, you can see our wonderful, beautiful, loving, supportive, incredible midwives. Hilary and Chris. They will always be a special part of our daughters’ stories, so will always be important to us.