** This birth story – the written version at least – has been months in the making. Since Lúthien was born I have intended on writing everything out, but…baby happens. 😉 The narrative may seem fragmented and drawn out because almost (if not all) of this has been typed out on my phone while Lúthien nurses, sometimes in the middle of the night, and in this case in the afternoon. Also, I can’t seem to fix the multiple fonts, so ignore them! **
On a Friday morning of the 19th of September at 40 weeks and 5 days, Ross and I woke up rather early in order to fight rush hour traffic for my 8:30am appointment with my OBGYN. We hurriedly left our house at dawn with Larabars stuffed in my purse and water bottles in tow, running on 5 hours of sleep.
My appointment went very well. My doctor measured me dilatedat 3 cm. Because I was almost at 41 weeks, we had an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid levels, and they hooked me up to external fetal monitoring finding that baby had great movement and contractions that were 6 minutes apart!
For the rest of the day, Ross and I kept ourselves rather busy. Since that appointment – probably encouraged by the cervical check – I was finally beginning to feel contractions regularly that were definitely distinct from Braxton Hicks. After grabbing lunch and something to drink, the contractions calmed down a bit, and we left for the mall where I was able to get some good walking. Our last stop was a nearby hair salon, where Ross got a last minute haircut. For the rest of the day we rested at home, re-watching Downton Abbey episodes together while I alternated between timing contractions and bouncing on the birthing ball.
By around 7 or 8pm, contractions were consistently 5 minutes apart. We slowly began to get all of our gear together, and I gave a call to my doctor. She didn’t sound too alarmed, but she suggested that since that night was busy for Labor and Delivery, if we wanted we could go ahead and try to get a room. Though contractions were close, they definitely did not feel strong enough. I wanted to take my time and stay and labor at home, but this was all new and it was a 45 minute drive to the hospital. So, around 11:00pm we left the comfort of our own home.
From there everything sort of went downhill. Though we reached the hospital in record time (no traffic), it took us half an hour to find a suitable parking spot. It was a nightmare then, and now it seems ridiculously comical. First, the main parking garage to the Women’s Center was out of service, so we tried two other parking garages at the hospital, but the doors to the hospital were locked. So, we were left to park at a parking meter, on the condition that Ross would somehow be able to move the car by 7am in the morning. Talk about stressful. Just picture us getting all of our stuff out of the car, walking across the lot to the doors, stopping midway during a contraction, and reaching the entrance only to have it locked. Now repeat.
After finally getting inside, we checked in and were told to wait in a room to get into Triage. (Triage is already a waiting room in itself, so this was waiting to go wait some more). By the time we finally plopped ourselves down, Ross at a chair, me on the birthing ball, I remember tiredly telling him, “All I want to do right now is take a nap with you.” Remember that we only had 5 hours of sleep the night before? Not the best way to start labor. While waiting, we began to walk the skywalk back and forth to keep me moving, and after about an hour or two we were taken into Triage. By that time, I was 5 cm and contractions were maybe 6 minutes apart. After making a call to my doctor, the nurse gave me the go ahead to walk the halls some more and come back in half and hour for more monitoring. We spent the whole night doing such: walking the halls, retuning to be monitored, sitting on the labor ball and so on.
We heard bell toll after bell toll that night signaling a baby’s birth, and finally around 6am they announced that we would be the next to go to a room. Our spirits were lifted after finally being somewhere comfortable with the sun rising. Ross read Wind and the Willows out loud while I labored around the room. Strangely though, I was too comfortable. Now, during the whole night, labor had barely progressed and had seemed to reach a stand still. I was still 5cm and contractions had neither increased intensity nor frequency. By 10am, nothing had changed. After a call to my doctor, our nurse explained that I was in “latent labor.” Wanting to avoid pitocin, Ross and I decided to go back home and labor there until contractions picked up.
It was wonderful going home in a way, especially after being uncomfortable for long in triage. (When we left for the hospital that first time around, somehow I didn’t think that we were leaving the house for good yet.) Ross made incredible sandwiches for lunch, and I attempted to nap. That didn’t last long though, as contractions kept me up and were worsened as I lied down. I tried lying in a bath, but I was too cramped. In the end a hot shower did the trick, but by that point in the afternoon contractions were strong enough to truly stop me in my tracks and we left for the hospital again around 3pm.
Luckily Women’s Center parking garage was open this time and back up to triage we went. I was dilated about 6 1/2 cm, and Ross and I were left to walk the halls again. While walking the contractions were much better to handle and they came more frequently. However, I still had to be monitored every 30 min to 45 min while lying down which seemed to slow them down (and contractions were much more difficult to handle on the bed).
Though all of the nurses we had were great and very supportive, eventually it just became very frustrating and exhausting laboring for so long without a private space. Finally around (maybe) 9pm, Ross and I were taken our room where we had the same sweet nurse that we had earlier that morning in our first room. Shortly afterwards, I’m pretty sure that I entered into transition – one of the hardest parts of labor. Everything from then on is a little more hazy in my memory, yet vivid at the same time.
No matter what I did this time, I could not ease the pain and pressure of the contractions. Though I had been able to control myself emotionally before, my exhaustion and the intensity of the contractions began to scare me a little. Ross and I weren’t quite sure how to handle this change at first. At one point I moved from the labor ball to the bed on all fours and I began having very intense back labor. Not being able to take that anymore, I moved to the shower to labor where the hot water provided some small comfort. I believe it was there where I began to take on a new focus. In the intensity of the labor pains, I accepted the suffering in my vulnerability and I sought Ross who supported me with tenderness and strength.
Once I was back at my bed and had reached 9cm, my (amazing) doctor arrived and we began to try to push. I really don’t recall how long I tried to push (I know we took several breaks and a few positions), all I remember is that at some point I began to scream very loudly and shake uncontrollably. I had already been losing whatever focus I had before, and Ross had to remind me how to breathe during the contractions. I was spent. I had been laboring for so long with no sleep, and I had probably begun to be dehydrated. Though I had the intense urge to push, I was wearing down.
My doctor who had been extremely supportive of us (from afar and in person) counseled that she was worried that I would not have enough strength to have our baby vaginally, but if I consented to an epidural, it would allow me to rest for a few hours in order to finally deliver our baby. We agreed with her, and shortly afterward the (very gracious) anesthesiologist came in and administered the epidural.
Immediately the pain began to subside and for the first time in hours (a day and a half, really), I was able to lie down and rest. I think it was close to 3am. Ross was soon dead asleep in the nearby armchair, and I was in and out of sleep.
Though the epidural did help me rest, it was slightly disconcerting the amount of drugs that needed to follow after the epidural. I ended up consenting to a small amount of pitocin, and because I had low blood pressure from the epidural (causing me to shake again), I received another drug as well. Despite that, I was relieved knowing that soon this would be over and our baby would be here. The epidural definitely calmed my nerves though (even though I couldn’t stop my body from shaking), and I was much more alert and present because of the rest.
Soon it was high time to push. My nurse could see baby’s head and our doctor came back along with more nurses. Our sweet nurse had to leave, but the shift change brought two others both of whom we had the previous morning. (We loved our nurses in L&D).
Soon after 7am, I began pushing again! Ross was on my left with the nurses and my doctor all around. It didn’t take long for me to get used to pushing again, but I did push for about 50 minutes. Her head was so round! My doctor rarely ever ever cuts episiotomies, but she asked if I would consent to one, because it looked like I might tear badly. I quickly said yes, and I think after two pushes she was out!
It was amazing, the moment she was born – such relief, such joy and awe. Our doctor proclaimed, “Ross, do you want to tell your wife what you have?!”
“It’s a girl!!”
So, after 36 hours in labor, Lúthien Marie was born at 8lbs, 4.5 oz and 20 in.
They put her on my chest (though not skin to skin like they said they would), but I just held her and talked to her through tears. While she was with me, they checked her temperature and she was running a fever. They took her to the corner where they cleaned her off, but she had swallowed meconium so they (sadly) had to suction out as much as they could out. Everything happened so quickly, and after being able to hold her one more time they whisked her away to the NICU.
Our time spent in the hospital after her birth is another story. It was hard and frustrating being away from her, but there was still so much joy. Not only was our baby here, but this baby whom we thought was “Louis” was…not a Louis. On the morning of her second day out of the womb, we named her Lúthien.
Not only was she the biggest baby in the NICU, but she was the most alert baby there. When I first came down to her, she was trying to pull that cord out of her mouth. Another time we came down to her, she was furiously sucking on her pacifier while holding onto it.
This is her on her second day.
Though this labor was not what I originally intended, I am so grateful for the experience. Through the struggle and the suffering, my love for my husband and our child grew in ways I did not expect. In my pain and my vulnerability, it was beautiful finding that I needed my husband. We worked as a team, in that he helped me find new strength, even when I felt like I was losing my mind. And despite receiving the epidural in order to push, I am deeply grateful for the experience of the pain of labor. Though the force and the pressure of the contractions scared me, I can now see the power of pain sacrificed for a love.