My close friend, sarah, had quite the birth experience with her first born. lily was born in march ’10, and i was there with her through most of the crazy journey. as you’ll read, the L&D was smokin’ fast. after sarah’s frantic calls and text’s, “i think i’m bout to have this BABY!!!!” to “lily is here!!!” in the middle of the night 🙂 , i made it to the hospital just after. lily was so teeny and adorable. i pulled some of the images from my other blog to share with her story. Now sarah is half way through her next pregnancy and this baby BOY better stay snuggled inside to full term! she asked me to be at the delivery, so you’ll get to see his birth in a few mths! yay! can’t wait.
Lily’s birth story is nothing like I ever imagined. Don’t you hear a lot of mother’s say that? Its so true. And I wouldn’t change a bit of it. You’ll probably think I’m crazy once you hear it, but…..I love every detail of it.
I should probably start from when I was about 20 weeks pregnant. Jake and I had just joined our Bradley Method Natural Birth classes and we were SO excited. (Btw, our instructor, Tracy Kemper, is fabulous. You can find her info under the resources tab on this site). One of the first things we discussed is nutrition and the importance of protein in growing strong, fat and healthy babies. I don’t remember the exact stats, but pregnant women should be eating somewhere between 60-80 grams of protein daily. Let me tell you, I jumped allll over this. Once I heard “fat and healthy babies,” I was on it. Because I had this tiny little instinct. This crazy, gut-deep instinct that my girl would not make it to full term. I never thought my mother’s instinct would kick in so soon, but it did. And for good reason. Of the five birth’s in my immediate family (my mom and sister), three of them were preterm, with the earliest being born at 26 weeks. All four doctors in my OB practice swore up and down –from my very first appointment– that preterm birth is not connected to genetics and I had nothing to worry about. I didn’t talk about it much and hardly told my friends what I was thinking, but……I knew. And prepared anyway. So, I started socking away 80 to 100 grams of protein a day –that’s a TON of milk and eggs my friends! If my baby was going to be early, I was going to do by best to make sure she was the biggest and healthiest she could be (but lets forget I would have gained like 85lbs and had to shoot out a 12lb baby if I went full term. yikes!)
Everything progressed perfectly and I felt great. I loved everything about being pregnant. The glow, the roundness, the tiny kicks and flutters. Everything. I had zero indication that I would be delivering early. But at 32 weeks, my water broke.
I didn’t really notice anything until mid-afternoon, when what I thought was normal pregnancy leakage and discharge, started soaking through a pad an hour and eventually soaked through my pants. I tried telling myself that one of the kids I was babysitting had peed on my lap (never mind the fact that the wetness was on the BACK of my pants). On the drive home from work, I started having mild contractions every 7 minutes or so. I tried telling myself this wasn’t happening, that my instincts weren’t right, and crazily searched through all my pregnancy books for proof that my symptoms were not preterm labor. Except everything pointed to labor. I tried calling my doctor and Tracy, but had to leave messages for both, which added to my panic. Eventually, I managed to get a message from my doc that abruptly said “Get to the hospital. Get checked.” Exactly those words. Great bedside manner to a freaking out hormonal mother, right? In disbelief, we threw some random things in a bag and left.
On the way to Good Sam, Tracy was able to call back and I cried on the phone as she told me she also thought I was in preterm labor. She was so encouraging and helpful, though, that we gained a little confidence and arrived at the hospital calm and ready to hear what the docs had to say. We finally were checked in and sent through to OB. The triage nurses didn’t believe for a minute that I was in labor and treated my symptoms as first time mom paranoia. When hooked up to the monitors, one nurse even exclaimed, “oh my, you actually are having contractions!” Really? I had been telling her that for 30 minutes! After the first cervical check and one test that came back negative — but I had done my research and knew this test had a high rate of false negatives– another, more advanced test was given. There was no doubt this one was positive. My bag of waters had broken and though I wasn’t dilating, I was in early stages of labor. The doc took one look at me and said I wasn’t leaving until I delivered a baby. I burst into tears and cried so hard, the poor man had to leave the room. I had an ultrasound next and I cried through the entire thing. Seeing her tiny little self in black and white, wiggling and kicking, just floored me. But, she was perfectly content and happy, as healthy as can be. The docs couldn’t believe how healthy she was, actually. A 32 weeker is supposed to weigh somewhere between 2-3 lbs. But not Lily. She measured in at FIVE pounds!!! Holy smokes, all that milk and cheese did it’s job 🙂
I was immediately admitted to Special Care Obstetrics and hooked up to IVs of magnesium (to stop labor), saline and antibiotics. I was given a continual drip of all three for the first 72 hours and given shots of steroids, in hopes that Lily’s lungs would develop rapidly from then until delivery. I couldn’t even tell you all the pills and drugs I had to take. Informed consent was pretty much thrown out the window and in our panic, we said yes to whatever they told us to do, no question. This was huge for me, as I am 100% for natural pregnancy and birth and struggled with even taking half a dose of Tylenol.
I was admitted to the hospital late Friday night, and Jake and I spent the weekend in a daze, staring at each other in confusion, wondering how we got here. It was surreal, discussing a high risk delivery and the emergency that would be surrounding Lily’s birth. So many doctors, nurses, and (wonderful) friends and family in and out every few hours. We couldn’t keep information and stories straight. We also were never talking to the same doctor twice in a row, and all the conflicting messages and information were really getting to us. By Monday, we had made the decision that Jake would return to work. My contractions had eased and all but stopped and with limited vacation days, it was more important for Jake to be home with the baby, instead of sitting around in depression with me at the hospital. That first day alone was just the worst. Every time a nurse would leave the room, I would burst into tears. Fortunately, a very dear friend (Tracey Beckman we love you) rescued me that day and came bringing gifts….and a blessed laptop. I can’t even explain what it felt like to be connected to the world again with that laptop. It sounds so silly, but reading blogs and posting on facebook were a lifeline. I finally had something else to do, besides read my depressing books (all my literature seems to travel down dark and depressing back alleys– but that’s nothing new. My current book involved babies and small children being ripped out of their mother’s arms and sent to gas chambers. helllllllooooo, so dumb, I know) and stare at the walls and cry. The comments, prayers and encouragement we received online were such an incredible blessing and we are still so very thankful. Tracey is also an amazing seamstress and had made Lily her very first pink quilt and the most adorable pink elephant snuggy (yes, handmade too!). I latched onto that pink elephant and slept with it and cried into it at night– just so Lily would have something that smelled like me when she had to eventually sleep alone in the NICU. And the thought of her alone in the NICU still sends me to tears. But the three weeks she did spend in the NICU and all that we went through is a story for another day. I still don’t think I have quite finished processing that part of our beginning as a family. Ugh.
But anyways, after Tracey’s visit (and the something like 12th visit from Melanie. She’s such an amazing friend) I was ready to get out of my panic and depression and get to waiting this baby out in the healthiest way possible. So, despite strict instructions to stay in my bed, I lugged my belly up and out as soon as a nurse left the room. I sat next to the window and read Psalms and poured my heart out to God. I did my pelvic floor stretches and squats and some light yoga stretches. If I was going to have the natural birth I was so craving, I couldn’t be mentally and physically strong enough for it just by sitting around all day. And the day I felt the strongest and most at peace, was the day I went into labor.
Before I get to that, I can’t miss Jake’s role in all this. I can’t even tell you how wonderful he was. Taking care of EVERYTHING. With all our belief that Lily would be premature, we didn’t prepare very well (I’m perfect for last-minute scatterbrained planning). Not a single clean onesie, diaper, or crib sheet to be found in our house– we didn’t even have a car seat! Jake ran around the city collecting these little necessities, all while taking care of me, our house, our finances, his work, the constant visitors and emails. So many trips to the house to get me a book, a clean pair of socks, my pearl earrings (seriously, I made him do that!). Sleeping in the horrible hospital chair all night, through nurse and doctor interruptions and getting up early to go to work. Praying with me every morning before he left. Talking to neonatologists and OB’s when I just couldn’t handle it. I have no words for how much I love this man.
Six days in, my contractions started around midnight, waking me up every fifteen minutes or so. I didn’t catch on to the rhythm until about 1am, and even then I didn’t wake anyone up. I laid in bed and collected myself, listened to my ipod and prayed. Finally, I woke Jake up around 1:30 and we called a nurse. When she came less than 5 minutes later, I was already up out of bed and having such strong contractions, I had to stop talking and brace myself against the footrest. She didn’t even wait to hear what I had to say and called in the doctors. The doc had to use some special contraption to check my cervix and dilation because of the high risk of infection I was under. She took one quick breath and said “Well, I don’t need this– I see hair.” WHAT????? Exactly. It was a heart stopping moment. After only about 2 hours of contractions, I was 8 cm. EIGHT. Things just went into overdrive. I don’t know how it happened, but nurses started coming out of the walls. Three were working on me alone. Two to strip off my clothes and the other to give me a new IV. In less than 3 minutes I was out of the that room and literally being raced down the hall to delivery. Nurses were yelling at people in the hall to get out of the way and we were running.
The next 2 hours were a blur. Somewhere in the hallway I had passed through transition and gone off into that secret place of intense focus. All I wanted to do was see my baby and make sure she was safe. After a point, it was just the two of us laboring together–our first experience of being mother and daughter. Amidst the pain, that was the sweetness that held me together. And the pain was definitely there. In a natural birth there is no running away from it! But it was beautiful. Seriously beautiful– a sort of reach up from the ground and rip your guts out kind of beautiful (!). But once you’re in it, the pain becomes a sort of side note to the progress you’re making and you’re that much closer to seeing your sweet baby. That’s when its beautiful.
I can’t say the actual birth was everything I wanted, because it wasn’t. We had so many plans for a smooth, calm natural birth. It was everything but. In all the emergency we lost our voices and did as we were told. Now I realize it could have been how we wanted (to a point. Nothing is ever exactly how you plan it, right?) That’s when a doula would have been perfect, to stand up for us when the fear paralyzed. But, despite it all, Lillian Violet arrived at 4:50am, 5lbs 10z, 19inches. Less than 20 minutes of pushing! She was perfect. The first thing I saw was her tiny, impossibly skinny little knobby knees and legs. She was whisked away by the NICU nurses before I could really see her face. Amazingly, again, she was as healthy as could be. Apgar of 9 and 9, just like a full term baby! Not once did she need oxygen or help regulating her temperature. I was able to hold her for 1-2 minutes before she was taken away to the NICU– a moment I could not even possibly explain. I was desperate to follow her, but the after birth process had to be taken care of first. I was wheeled into the NICU– again, another indescribable moment. Tiny babies and their desperate and aching parents beside them– I knew my child instantly out of them all. Even though I was again not allowed to hold her, her sweet little face turned to my voice as soon as I leaned in and snuggled her in the isolette. She smelled like vanilla. My perfect, sweet girl…..who is now 13 months and the chubbiest, wiggliest, most kissable girl in the world 🙂
thanks for sharing mama! great story. lily will LOVE to read this one day. peace, melanie and kelly.