Dean's birth story

I finally made the time to read a friend's birth story today, so that inspired me to finally make the time to finish writing my story about Dean. You absolutely do not have to read this, but I know some of you will want to, hence the "Read More" option. Also, it's pretty long, so I didn't want people to have to scroll all the way through it to get to previous posts.

Dean’s birth story

4:30 a.m.—I woke up. My mind was buzzing. It was nothing particularly new during pregnancy to be suddenly awake, but I started thinking about things I needed to do before Dean was born. The main thing was realizing that it would be really helpful for whoever took Kent to have an info sheet with his favorite foods, activities, where we are in potty training, friends to call for playdates, etc. I started writing it in my head, and then around 5, I realized I was having contractions. I lay in bed a little while longer, feeling the contractions and thinking they felt different but that I didn’t want to get my hopes up that this might finally be labor, since I had had a few periods of regular contractions in the previous weeks and kept having my hopes dashed when they went away. I decided to get up and start typing up his info sheet, and I ate a bowl of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest and enjoyed the silence of the dark morning. I had mostly finished the info sheet when Jack and Kent got up around 6:00, and Jack was surprised to see me sitting on the sofa since he had thought I was still in bed. I told Jack that I thought this might be it but I wasn’t sure, filled him in on the info sheet, and then told him I thought he’d better plan to stay home for at least a few hours, just in case.

Around 8 a.m., I was thinking more and more that this was it. My contractions were hurting, not a lot but persistently enough that I knew they felt different than Braxton-Hicks. When one started, I did a cleansing breath, leaned over against something high (the TV, changing table, countertop) and swayed back and forth slowly, the way I remember the nurse showing us in the first childbirth class we took several years ago. It helped, and I felt like I was doing something I’d be able to use for the rest of my labor since I was able to relax through the contractions.

I called the midwives’ office to get some advice about whether to come in, and the receptionist (or was it a nurse?) advised me to go ahead and go to the hospital to be checked. I then called our doula René and told her we’d be going to the hospital soon, and Jack called Mary Mikell (our friend from church and on-call babysitter) to ask her to come over and stay with Kent. I felt at this point like I was rushing around like a crazy mom, trying to get Kent packed up for a night away, since his bag was mostly packed but I knew there were things I still needed to throw in. We were also getting our hospital bag ready, since it was also missing some stuff I knew I’d want. Mary showed up around 8:30, and we stayed for a few minutes to talk to her and get Kent settled, and then we headed to the hospital and told René we were on our way. My contractions were generally about 7-8 minutes apart at this point, about a 2 on my pain scale.

We got to the hospital around 9:15, and I got out at the awning to ask the security guard where Jack could park. I said to her very pleasantly, “I’m in labor and my husband needs to know where to park.” She told him where, then looked at me sideways and asked, “You’re really in labor?” “Yep.” “Does it hurt?” “Not much yet—it’s pretty early.” I think she thought I was insane.

We walked to the check-in desk on the second floor, I got my bracelets, and then they showed me to a triage room and asked me to get changed and pee in a cup. It was just like our visit a month earlier, when I had been afraid I was in labor at 34.5 weeks, except I wasn’t scared at all and was feeling pretty excited. Almost bubbly. Obviously I wasn’t in a lot of pain yet. Tina (one of the nurses I’d spend time with that day) came in to talk to me, and René arrived sometime shortly after we got settled in the room. I told everyone how I was feeling, they put me on the monitors and everything seemed fine. Then Tina checked me, probably the most painful cervical check I’ve ever had in my life. She had a lot of trouble getting all the way to my cervix since Dean’s head was pressing right down on it, so she pushed her hand in, I thought, “Okay, this is manageable,” and then she literally pushed me backward a few inches on the bed as she reached farther in. Yikes. I was 2 cm (“a tight 2”) and about 80% effaced, only a bit farther along than I had been at my prenatal appointment the previous Friday. From that point on, though, I was terrified of being checked for the rest of the day. Thank goodness it only happened three more times, and the last was practically blissful since I was in the tub and it ended up being some surprisingly good news. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The nurse was a little concerned that the monitors weren’t picking up many accelerations of Dean’s heartbeat, so they got me a bunch of boxes of apple juice and I started sucking them down. I remember René opening them for me, and when she had some trouble getting the straws in, I joked that she was too far gone from being the mom of a young child, since she was visibly out of practice with juice boxes. After a few minutes, the juice hit Dean’s system and his heart rate started jumping around, good news to the nurse, so we all felt a little better. At this point, since my labor wasn’t hard yet and I was only 2 cm along, René mentioned that if the nurses and Kathy (the midwife on call) okayed it, I might want to think about going home to relax, getting something to eat, and seeing if I could get labor to pick up on my own instead of waiting at the hospital and possibly getting a bunch of interventions I didn’t want. I was working with my contractions and swaying a lot once I was able to get off the monitors, and we took several walks around the floor to see if my labor would pick up. Jack started swaying with me and pushing on my back, because I felt a lot of back pain with some of the contractions. Dean’s position was apparently going to mean a lot of back labor for me, in addition to the really painful cervical checks. Woot.

Another nurse, Traci, came in to see how I was doing, and right away I was impressed with her. She started bubbling over about tub births and how I’d better have the baby before 7 p.m., since that’s when her shift ended. She was incredibly excited to have me there, and we had only just met. I think she and René had worked together a lot and were really comfortable with each other, and she was obviously really pro-natural. I was definitely thinking that I wanted to leave to get something to eat and try to relax at home, so Traci checked me again before I left (this had been about 2 hours since I arrived at the hospital) and I hadn’t changed from when Tina checked me. It was almost as painful, probably only slightly less painful because I was dreading it and expected it to hurt even more.

When we were leaving, René and at least one of the nurses made it sound like I might be coming back that evening or it might be later in the weekend, they weren’t sure—but I was thinking it would be really strange if I was dealing with this all weekend before things picked up.

I wanted a cheeseburger. From Chili’s. A cheeseburger is the first thing I ate after Kent was born, so besides the association with my first birth, I knew I wanted the protein. So determined was I to have a good burger that we drove several minutes away and waited to get our food to-go, rather than just going through the McDonald’s drive-thru. My contractions were picking up in intensity, and it was much worse to labor in the car and not be able to get up and move around. If it hadn’t been pouring down rain, I would have gotten out of the car in the parking lot and just swayed right there next to the car, but I didn’t want to be soaking wet in addition to really uncomfortable, so I just stayed in the car and waited for our food to be done. Jack came to wait in the car with me and held my hand during the contractions, then got me a cup of water from inside when I asked him to. When our food was finally ready, we called Mary to make sure she and Kent weren’t at the house, because I knew I’d be laboring at home and was not interested in having Kent around to see me like that. I also knew I’d be under a lot of stress trying to be his mom while I was trying to manage my increasing pain.

When we got home just after 1 p.m., I filled up our tub and got in, then had Jack bring me my cheeseburger. We ate in the bathroom with a couple of candles lit, him on the closed toilet with a plate in his lap, and me naked in the tub trying to eat bites between contractions. The warm water felt great, but after a while I started to feel like I couldn’t work as well with my pain when I was in the tub. I had eaten about half of my cheeseburger and felt tired of eating, and I just wanted to be dry and able to move around more, so I got out of the tub and back into my t-shirt and yoga pants.

For the next couple of hours, I labored in our bedroom, lying down between contractions (because I was already exhausted at this point and wished I could sleep) and then getting up every time I felt one start to surge. Laboring in the sanctity of my bedroom, I really understood the appeal of home births for the first time. I’d get on all fours with Jack behind me to push on my back, a position René had suggested to try to get Dean to move around so I wouldn’t have so much back labor. Then, for other contractions, I got out of the bed and stood on the floor, leaning over onto the bed and swaying like I had done earlier in the day. Some of them were manageable this way, but I was having alternating strong and weak contractions just as I had with Kent, and the strong ones were starting to knock me on my butt.

At about 3:30, I began seriously considering an epidural. I was surprised at how easily it occurred to me, since I had been so fired up about going natural with Kent and the thought never really crossed my mind for more than a few seconds during his birth. But this time, I felt the intensity of my labor ratcheting up dramatically and had no idea how I was going to get through the rest of it, particularly since I didn’t know how far I had progressed since leaving the hospital. Would I be doing this all night? I knew I couldn’t last that long. I wished desperately that there were some way for me to check myself or for Jack to check me—someone really needs to come up with that. Not knowing how long I’d be laboring, and starting to feel defeated, I felt so vulnerable and emotional. I broke down sobbing when I looked at the clock and realized this was the longest I’d ever been away from Kent, because I was really starting to miss him. In my mind, I imagined being able to see him at the hospital if I could just get an epidural. I was ready to justify it any way I could, I think. Jack asked if I wanted Mary to bring Kent by for a little while, but I knew that would be stupid because even if I got to see him, I’d be running out of the room every couple of minutes with a contraction. They were 3 or 4 minutes apart by this point, and I had stopped thinking in terms of my pain scale because I was starting to feel a loss of control over the whole situation. Back to the hospital we went.

Because of the rain and the fact that it was about 4:15, we hit some major traffic and ended up taking a different, longer route back to the hospital. I was so upset at having to labor in the car for that much longer, but we made it to the hospital and René came out to walk us inside. I told her I was having them every 3 minutes and they were much stronger, and she said something like, “Good for you! You’re doing great!” We made it upstairs (it’s a much longer walk and elevator ride during hard labor), and between contractions, I checked in with the nurse at the desk. I sat down between contractions because my body was so tired, but I eventually got into a room. Karen, René’s backup doula, was there with her, and René told us that another client of hers had just come over from the clinic at 5 cm and asked if it was alright if Karen stayed with us so that she could be with this other couple. (We found out later that they paid their deposit first, hence the switch.) I hadn’t met Karen, but it didn’t matter to me at all. Even though René had been helpful earlier in the day, helping me to relax various parts of my body during contractions and helping me make clear decisions, I felt so much more comfortable with how Jack was helping me through contractions than how she was. I had expected to use a doula physically, for help in positioning, helping Jack know what to do, etc., but it turned out not to be that way at all. And Karen ended up being incredibly helpful at key moments during the rest of my labor. I’m so thankful she was there when she was.

Once I got back on the monitors and met Erin, the nurse who’d be with me for the rest of my labor, I started to feel a little better about things but still wanted desperately to be checked (even though I was dreading the pain of it again). Erin checked me and said I was at 4 cm. I thought, “Are you freaking kidding me?” but I think what I said was, “I was afraid of that.” Everyone else in the room was trying to make me feel better, saying, “Oh, 4 cm, that’s great!” and I just wanted to crawl into a hole. I was almost sure at this point that I’d be getting pain meds, but I did want to try a few more things first. Thankfully, I had surrounded myself with people who weren’t just going to let me get an epidural without making sure I had thought as clearly as possible about it—Erin included, since she was very pro-natural as well and told me that with her second child, she went from 2 cm to pushing in about an hour. And of course I knew that my mom had progressed quickly at the end as well. But I felt like I just didn’t know what my body was going to do, since my labor took an artificial pace with Kent from being on Pitocin, and I wasn’t sure how quickly things would go this time.

I had gotten into the hospital room at about 4:45, and after I had been laboring in bed and on the monitors for about half an hour (horrible because I couldn’t move, only cringe), Erin encouraged me to move around. Karen had started setting up the tub at this point, though I didn’t think it would help at all since I hadn’t been very comfortable in our tub at home. Both Karen and Erin (and maybe even René) were quick to tell me how different this would be than my tub at home, since it was a lot bigger and I’d be able to move around more, but I was still pretty skeptical. If Karen hadn’t been there as the backup doula, Jack would have been the one to set up the tub, and I’m still so grateful that she was there, because I didn’t want to let go of him for more than a few seconds at a time. He had been amazing at home, and I knew I’d need him almost constantly now that things were getting even more intense at the hospital.

Karen was still getting the tub together, so she and Erin both encouraged me to get in the shower and have Jack aim the hot water on my back while I waited for the tub. I was willing to try it, and the water did help a bit once I got in there, but the shower wasn’t really big enough for me to be able to lean over like I wanted to, or to sit down between contractions. Jack had his swimsuit on, and I was totally naked at this point, because I didn’t feel like bothering with a tank top that would only get soaked, and I suddenly didn’t care who in the world saw me naked. Karen came in to check on me a couple of times and let me know that the tub was almost ready. I talked to Jack about getting an epidural. I’m sure I had brought it up to him before that, but I wanted him to know that I was serious and needed him to find out what needed to happen so I could get one. I knew I couldn’t just get it hooked up immediately. So Jack asked, and someone told him I’d need to have a full bag of IV fluids which would take about half an hour, and then I could do it. After a few more contractions in the shower, I was ready to do that. We came back out into my room, and Erin told me she’d check me in a minute and then start my Hep-lock for the IV since I hadn’t gotten one yet. I started to get dressed, but then Karen said the tub was ready and encouraged me again to get in, so I convinced myself to give it a shot even though I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to help at all.

At 5:40, I got in the tub, and I asked for a couple of pointers on how women usually did it and what positions they used. Karen said I could get on all fours, lean over the edge of the tub, get up on my knees, or pretty much anything else that felt comfortable. Jack got in behind me to help me through my contractions, and after a couple of minutes, I felt a totally odd sensation like Dean had just jumped down a couple of inches. Jack felt it too, because it shook the tub. Maybe it was my water breaking, but I have no idea. I had had two or three more contractions when Erin came back in to check me. I didn’t feel like the tub was helping a lot, but I just wanted to be checked so I’d have that information. She said she could check me in the tub (big relief—I wouldn’t have to get out and get back on the bed), so Jack basically made himself into a table and I effortlessly flipped back onto him, and Erin checked me quickly with a lot less pain that I’d had with the previous checks. She said, “You’re at 7 or 8.” The sweetest words I could have heard, almost as sweet as when I was fighting the urge to push with Kent and the nurse finally told me it was okay to push. Jack practically cried from relief and said, “You’ve done so great, baby!” and I said with a confident smile, “That’s a game changer.” I felt totally empowered. I was me again. For the first time in several hours, I felt like I could handle it. I was ready to fight the rest of the way. If I could dilate that much in an hour, I knew it would be over soon and I’d have my little boy in my arms.

I mostly had my eyes closed, so I wasn’t always aware of who was in front of me or who was talking, just that everyone was on my team and things were finally going okay. At one point I heard René’s voice and knew she must have come to check on me, and at another point, I could smell Karen’s gum right in front of me and it was randomly driving me crazy. I said, “That mint smell has to go,” and Karen said, “That’s me, sorry!” and immediately spit out her gum. Thank goodness we laughed about it later, and she said she was glad I was able to tell her what was bothering me so she could fix it.

Erin left the room after she checked me, and at the end of the very next contraction, I felt the urge to push. I was already yelling, groaning, and cursing at that point, and I yelled to Jack that was I feeling the urge to push and said to everyone in the room, “Tell her [Erin] I’m pushing! I can’t stop it!” Karen said very calmly, “You just do what your body is telling you. It’s okay.” I’m not sure how much she knew about how I’d had to fight that urge for 20 minutes with Kent, but I know she sensed how afraid I was that I was feeling the urge already after only being 7-8 cm, and she responded in exactly the way I needed her to. So at 5:50, I started to push. Karen said, “Everyone’s in the room who needs to be,” and she urged me to go slow and steady, but I knew that wasn’t happening. My body was ready to do this as quickly as possible, and I wasn’t about to hold back. (René later told me that she was out in the hallway, heard me yelling, and noticed Kathy coming down the hall and said something like, “I think they need you in there!”) Two, maybe three contractions later, I realized Kathy was in the room, and I said, “Hey, Kathy. What’s up?” A couple of people giggled. Looking back on those last few minutes, I felt like I was in a dream. After crawling along all day, things were suddenly moving so fast that my head was spinning, and since my eyes were closed for so much of the end, I mostly have sound and sensation memories rather than sight memories. I was always aware, though, that Jack was with me, and that my baby was coming out, albeit in searing pain. Kathy reached into the tub to massage me for a minute and feel where Dean was, and when she felt his head, she urged me to stick my hand down there and feel him as well. I could feel him just an inch or two away from the outside—miraculous—and Jack reached down to feel him after that. We were doing this.

I pushed out his head, screaming as I did it, and because I’ve seen so many childbirth videos and had been through it before on a bed, I stopped because I was thinking about them needing to suction him out and turn his head upright. A few seconds later, I think Kathy said, “Keep pushing!” and something about getting the rest of him out, and I thought, “Oh yeah, no suctioning—he’s underwater.” And then, at 5:55, just 15 minutes after I had gotten into the tub with dwindling hope about having another natural birth, I pushed him out. Kathy said, “Reach down and grab him,” and I pulled Dean up to the surface. Again, not thinking about the fact that the water was still safe for him at this point, I found myself trying to keep his head above the water, but then I realized that was silly too, and Kathy took over. She and the rest of the nurses realized quickly that the cord was wrapped around his neck. I looked at my purple baby, with a bright blue cord wrapped tightly around his neck, and I didn’t panic. Now, I wonder how I kept a level head, but at the time, my first thought was, “We’re in a hospital, surrounded by medical professionals. He’s going to be fine.”

And he was, eventually. Thank God.

With Jack’s help, they got the cord off him, and I could feel it pulling inside me as they unwrapped it from his neck. Kathy then cut through the cord, splattering Dean’s side with blood. He was immediately put on the warmer and given oxygen—I couldn’t see him, though I wasn’t panicked at all. I think my lack of panic was more because I was still on the high from having given birth. It’s hard to remember exactly what I was thinking. I leaned back against Jack, completely relieved that it was over and feeling so much love from him, he who had held me in the tub as I birthed our beautiful son. The nurses told me Dean was pretty pale and they were going to need to take him to the NICU, so they wrapped him in a blanket, let us have a quick hold and hello kiss, and then wheeled him down the hall and away from us. They had told us his weight, 6 lbs 12.6 oz, just about an ounce heavier than his big brother had been. But they hadn’t checked his height or head circumference, so we didn’t find those out until later, and I never have found out what his Apgar scores were.

Soon after Dean left, I got out of the tub (with a lot of help), still holding the cord in my hand because I hadn’t delivered the placenta yet. I think I got a hospital gown on but I’m not sure—it may have only been a large blanket—and then I got into the bed and Kathy pulled on the placenta while I gave one more push. I remember thinking how odd it was to be pushing one last time without feeling that urge anymore. Kathy gave me a shot to numb me so she could sew me up, and she asked more than once if I had had an episiotomy with my first birth because my tear was in such a straight line. No, I hadn’t, but I thought it was a nice reaffirmation that episiotomies are usually unnecessary because our bodies just know how to tear the way they need to. Even though I had some kind of anesthetic, the stitches hurt like hell, and since Dean was gone I didn’t have my gorgeous new baby to distract me like I had with Kent.

I had a second-degree tear, exactly the same as with Kent, but I didn’t really care. I still think it’s odd that tearing isn’t nearly as scary as we think it’s going to be, but I suppose it isn’t scary because it happens at the moment that our child is entering the world.

After Karen drained and broke down the tub, she stuck around for a little while and was in the room when a nurse came in to tell us we’d be able to have Dean back to us in a few hours. I didn’t have a really clear head and wasn’t even sure what to ask about how he was doing, but Karen stepped in and said, “They haven’t been told anything—can you tell them how he’s doing?” The nurse said he was actually doing really well, that they had to keep him for a standard 4 hours but that they might be able to release him earlier than that.

The staff knew I wanted to breastfeed him as soon as he was ready, so after about an hour and a half of waiting in the L&D room, we got to go back to the NICU to visit him. I walked, because I was feeling great, and the nurses were surprised that I didn’t need a wheelchair. Mostly, I didn’t want to wait any longer to see Dean, so I didn’t want to wait for someone to get me a wheelchair. We got into the NICU and were told to wash our hands to see our own baby, which I know is a good policy, but it still felt bizarre. We came over to Dean’s little table, saw about a dozen wires sticking out of various parts of his body, and started to bond with our son, finally. The NICU nurse was very friendly and said that he had been doing great—they had given him oxygen at first and a tiny bag of fluids to help his color and strength. She unhooked him from the monitors, showed me a chair where I could sit to nurse, and said she’d be back in a minute to help me get him latched. No need. I knew just how to hold him, and because he was doing so well and hadn’t eaten anything yet in his short little life, he latched right on. The nurse came back, took one look at us, grinned, and said, “I just love second-time moms.”

Dean nursed beautifully for about 15 minutes, and then Jack and I both held him for a little while as the nurse took some pictures for us. She explained that they wanted to monitor his temperature for just a little while longer but that he’d be back to us soon. We kissed him a temporary goodbye so we could go transfer to a recovery room.

I was starving, and the ward had been unusually busy that morning so they were out of the food they usually gave to new moms. As soon as we got checked into the recovery room, I sent Jack down to the hospital’s Subway before they closed, and I called my mom. We held off on calling a lot of people until we knew Dean was okay, but I wanted to talk to my mom. Jack came back with our food, and we ate together in relative silence as we marveled at how strange it was not to have our baby with us in the hospital room. I thought about trying to rest until Dean was with us again. We had just turned off the lights when the NICU nurse knocked on the door with our little boy, so sleep would just have to wait a little while longer. I wanted to feed him, and then I needed to gaze at him for as long as I possibly could.

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Beautiful story, beautiful baby, beautiful family! Thank you for sharing.
every birth story makes me cry now this one is particularly beautiful and special. Give everyone a squeeze from me.
So sweet. Bless you.
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