All right! Here is the kind-of-abridged (but still very long) version of Paisley's birth story.
[Jessica took pictures at the birth, and I don't have them from her yet, so I only have one picture to share from the actual birth. I also have a really bad family picture, which Rebecca took for us when we came home from the hospital. Maybe I can add more pictures later? We'll see.]
Tuesday (June 19th), Paisley was three days overdue so I texted my midwife (Rebecca) and asked her whether we should schedule another appointment. We decided to meet the next morning at 9 am to invite Paisley to be born, if she wanted to be. We couldn’t strip membranes, because I was Strep B positive and I was planning to refuse antibiotics in labor, but Rebecca had an herbal tincture that I could drink to encourage labor, and a castor oil rub that could also help. If those things didn’t work on Wednesday, we would try again on Friday. Rebecca suggested Jeff and I have a nice evening, and she said that if I wanted I could have fresh oregano and basil, because those are also said to encourage labor. (“Really?” “Well, some people say Eggplant Parmesan does it, but they’ve studied that, and they think it’s actually fresh basil and oregano. So if you want the real deal, you could make Eggplant Parmesan.”)
So, Jeff and I had a nice evening, and I made Eggplant Parmesan for dinner, with fresh basil and oregano.
The next morning, Rebecca called to let me know that she had another lady in labor, so if I wanted to come by sooner than 9 am, she would be able to spend more time with me. I got to her office a little after 8 am. We did normal appointment things—my urine test was still perfect; I was dilated to 3 cm, very stretchy, very effaced, and the baby was very low. That morning I had also had some show, and I’d had a couple contractions on the way to Rebecca’s office. I drank the tincture, and Rebecca gave me a little cup of castor oil rub to rub on my belly an hour later. Rebecca guessed that there was probably a 75% chance that we would have a baby that day.
As I drove home, I started having more contractions.
I never used the castor oil rub.
By 8:45 am I had downloaded a contraction timer onto my phone and I was timing contractions. I had contractions that lasted a minute to 90 seconds, and they were coming every two or two and a half minutes. Things got pretty intense pretty quickly.
I was reluctant to decide that I was actually in labor because I wasn’t sure whether the contractions were from the drink or from being in labor. (Rebecca said, “Could be both.”) I also thought that first time moms usually are in labor for a long time (I was expecting to be in labor for 11-15 hours or so), and I didn’t want to be a wimp and have everyone come over way too early. By 10 am, I was starting to have trouble coping by myself, though, and I had asked Jeff to please come home from work, now please. I had also invited my sister (Jessica) and Jeff’s mom to come over. Rebecca would join us after she finished the birth that she was already attending.
So, everyone came over.
My details for the rest of the day are kind of fuzzy, because I was pretty distracted with contractions. Rebecca said the contractions could go two ways: contractions from the drink could go away after a couple hours, and labor would slow down, OR I would continue to have close contractions the whole time and I would have a shorter labor. I would have preferred the first option, but I got the second one.
When Jeff got home, he inflated the birthing tub, and filled it. The water was not as relaxing as I hoped it would be, but nothing was really relaxing, so it wasn’t any worse than not being in water.
I mostly labored on my hands and knees, because that seemed like the most comfortable position. Contractions were so frequent that I also labored on the toilet when I went to the bathroom, and I sometimes labored standing up as I was walking to the bathroom. During my contractions everyone had to be quiet. Jeff was the one who had the most trouble being quiet. He was just so excited. He kept grinning, and he would forget to be quiet when contractions started. I thought it was cute that he was so excited, but I did remind him to be quiet every time he forgot.
When Rebecca arrived, she asked if I wanted her to check me, to know how dilated I was. I was curious, but I didn’t feel like I could stand to be checked because I was too consumed by the contractions. So she didn’t check me. She had kind of a neat trick, though—each time she checked Paisley’s heart rate, Rebecca noted where the heartbeat was. It started on the left side, and I guess as a baby gets ready to be born, it moves more to the center, so that right before a baby is born, its heartbeat is found right beneath the mom’s belly button. Interesting! So, Rebecca knew approximately how dilated I was based on the location of Paisley’s heartbeat.
When Paisley’s heartbeat was below my belly button and just to the left, Rebecca told me sorry, she needed to check me. At that point I was dilated to 9 cm and the waters were bulging. She asked if I wanted her to pop them, and although I wanted to be done, I felt like things were intense enough already, so I decided to hold off on that.
I got back into the birthing tub to keep laboring, and I think within a few minutes I popped the bag of waters from pushing.
Pushing lasted longer than I thought it would, and I hated that part. It hurt, and I felt like we kept not making any progress. It took a long time for the baby to crown. Rebecca had me try pushing on the toilet, and then on the bed, and I think at that point the baby’s head was turned properly. So, I went back to the birthing tub to finish pushing. After pushing for a little while longer, her head came out and everyone got pretty excited. (And that finally felt like progress.) I thought at that point she would kind of just slide out and it would be easy, but it wasn’t; apparently she has bigger shoulders, so I had to keep pushing. Pretty soon after that, she was born, at 4:05 pm. (My labor lasted about 7.5 hours in all.) I sat down in the tub and someone handed Paisley to me.
Paisley was purple, which I guess isn’t unusual for babies born in water. She got normal color pretty quickly. She was quiet at first, but then she cried. She had a whole lot of hair, which is kind-of two-tone colored; it looks like she has highlights. I thought she looked a lot like Jeff, and I kept saying so. Also, she seemed to have big feet and long fingers.
I asked if she was still a girl. Nobody had thought to look, so we looked, and she is.
I held Paisley until I delivered the placenta; around then Jeff cut the umbilical cord. I also thought delivering the placenta would be painless. It wasn’t. I had to push, and it came out halfway, and I had to keep pushing to get the rest of it out.
Once the placenta came out, there was also a big gush of blood. The pool started to turn red. Rebecca said we needed to move to the bed, so someone helped me get there. I started to feel like I might black out, so Rebecca gave me a shot of Pitocin to help my uterus clamp down, and she set up an IV to help since I had lost some blood.
Things were still pretty calm, though.
My sister helped me try to breastfeed Paisley, and Rebecca put in a few stitches to tack down the places where I tore. I was feeling pretty weak, so I just stayed there in bed with my IV, and other people held Paisley. Rebecca did the newborn testing that she needed to do—Paisley weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces, and she was 20 inches long. Rebecca also checked my pulse and blood pressure regularly to see how I was doing. They were not bad, and I was still bleeding, but not an unusual amount.
At about 8 pm, the IV was finishing, and Rebecca thought we should see if I could sit up. I tried to sit up, and even at only a 45-degree angle or about that, my pulse went up to 140, and I started feeling like I would black out. So I lay back down. We started talking about whether I should transfer to a hospital, since I still wasn’t in stable condition. Rebecca gave me a pill (started with “M”) to help my uterus clamp down, and maybe that would make the difference between whether I needed to transfer or not.
It didn’t. After we realized we’d been discussing the hospital option for another hour and I was still doing the same, we decided to go to the hospital. If there was a way for me to get out to the car, we would have just driven there, but without even being able to sit up at all it was a pretty lost cause. Conversation with my insurance revealed that an ambulance was only covered if we called 911; we couldn’t just call an independent ambulance. So, someone called 911 and I don’t know who all came, but I know there was at least a fire truck in addition to the ambulance. My neighbors were pretty excited about that, I guess.
Four big guys came in and started asking a bunch of questions about my condition and what happened. They had the perfect tool for moving me—it was basically a metal person-carrier that split down the middle, so I just had to roll to each side and they assembled it beneath me, and they carried me outside to an ambulance bed, which then went up into the ambulance. Jeff came along in the ambulance, Rebecca followed, and Jeff’s mom and Jessica brought Paisley in our truck.
There were two things that could have been my problem: most likely, I just lost too much blood. We weren’t sure how much blood I lost since I had been in the tub, but the tub was so opaque with blood that someone said they couldn’t read the writing on the bottom of the tub, so I had lost a lot of blood. The other thing it could have been was that I could have retained part of the placenta; it came out pretty ragged-looking, so Rebecca was pretty sure it was all accounted for, but it was hard to be certain.
So, in the ER, they decided to do an ultrasound to look for pieces of placenta, but first the doctor needed to manually clean out anything that was in my uterus. He reached (shoved?) his hand up inside me and kept pulling out blood clots. He told me later that he pulled out about half a gallon of blood clots. That procedure was absolutely the worst, most painful experience of my life—even after just having had a natural childbirth. Later we realized he also tore out two of my three stitches.
They gave me some Cervidil, and a shot of the M drug that Rebecca had given me earlier. At some point the doctor did that same terrible thing again, but it didn’t last as long the second time. They did the ultrasound, and they didn’t find anything. My blood work came back and my hematocrit was at 26. Usually after giving birth women get down to 32; if someone comes into the ER at 23 that is the number where they automatically will do a blood transfusion. So, they said that since I was still losing blood they thought it would be a good idea to give me two units of blood. After the radiologist had a chance to look at my ultrasound, they would know for sure on that too, whether I needed surgery or not.
So, someone moved me to the postpartum recovery portion of the hospital, and that night and the next morning I got the two units of blood, plus at least a couple more bags of fluid.
We stayed in the hospital for the next day and a half; a lot of the time Paisley just snuggled with me. Jeff was on diaper duty 100% since I couldn’t really get up or use my arms. Jeff’s mom came to the hospital in the mornings and evenings so that Jeff could go home to milk goats and shower.
|Friday, after we left the hospital.|
On Friday morning, my hematocrit came back as 23, and they were deciding whether to give me more blood or send me home. I was still pretty weak, so I wanted more blood, but the doctor decided to send me home, since I didn’t have the same problems as I had when I came into the hospital—I could sit up, and I could walk across the room to use the bathroom. And, because I had received so many fluids, the hematocrit was lower than it actually would be after I got rid of the extra fluids. The doctor guessed I was actually at about 26. He told Jeff and I that we should expect my recovery to take weeks, not days. Great.
Jeff and I were both pretty exhausted from our hospital experience. We were grateful that Paisley was not a patient in the hospital, so we didn’t have to worry about any interventions with her.
Now Paisley is about two and a half weeks old. Jeff had two weeks of paternity leave, so he went back to work this Thursday. I’ve been really weak and exhausted, but this week was much better than last week. Last week, when I carried Paisley to the changing table, I had to sit and rest before I changed her. This week, I can just change her. That’s nice.