Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Joanna's Birth Story

Almost all of the pre-labor symptoms I'd had (Braxton-Hicks contractions, pain in my cervix) completely stopped over the weekend. I was still in a lot of pain and had difficulty getting around, but, by Monday, I felt great. My body was less achy, and I was convinced that the upcoming birth was a while off.

Monday night (November 7), the contractions came back. There weren't many--maybe three--all evening, but they were more painful than before. I went to bed early just in case. Throughout the night, I woke up every half hour to two hours. I'd feel a few seconds of pain, and that was it. The baby was moving like crazy, and I had trouble sleeping. Oliver woke up every time I did, so Andrew had a restless night, too.

At 5am on Tuesday (November 8), I stopped trying to go back to sleep. I laid there and wondered if the contractions would lead up to labor. They were pretty painful, but they only lasted a few seconds. When I stood up, they increased in intensity, but not in length. I was experiencing contractions that lasted only about 10 seconds long every 4-5 minutes.

Oliver, Andrew and I all went downstairs at 6am for breakfast. I was confused about whether or not to call the midwife because my contractions were so short. However, they hurt so badly that I couldn't talk through them. I finally called her, and she told me to come in for an exam at 7:30am. My mother-in-law, Colleen, came over to watch Oliver while Andrew and I headed to the hospital. The drive was about thirty minutes. I only had two contractions during the drive. In between contractions, I thought that there was no way I was actually in labor, and I was wasting everyone's time. Their timing had slowed down, and they weren't lasting long. Then, a contraction would hit, and it hurt so much that I knew this was the real thing.

Andrew dropped me off at the ER entrance and left to find parking. As soon as I stepped out of the car, the contractions started to come much more frequently. By the time I was brought to my room, I started to have them about two minutes apart. My midwife looked at my face and said, "That is a woman in labor." She hooked me up to a monitor, and I learned my contractions were actually lasting a full minute each. I only felt about 10-15 seconds of them, though. Last week, I'd been dilated 3cm. At the hospital, I was dilated 5cm. I was admitted.

Because of everything that needed to be taken care of first, I didn't get my epidural until 9:30am. The last half hour of that was pretty excruciating. Getting the epidural wasn't painful, but getting the IV in my arm was awful. It was the worst part of labor, and I cried like a baby after the nurse dug into a vein for the third time and missed. Once the epidural kicked in, the pain stopped completely. I couldn't fall asleep, but I was able to relax and visit with my parents and my husband. My midwife checked me, and I'd dilated to 7cm. She predicted the baby would arrive by lunch time.

Lunch time came and went. I stayed dilated at 7cm for a couple of hours, but the most discouraging thing was that the baby wasn't dropping. She was at a -5 when she needed to be at a +2 to push. This is what happened at Oliver's delivery. My midwife started to talk about Pitocin. I wanted to yell, "No!" because Pitocin was the worst thing ever, and it didn't succeed in pushing Oliver down. Nothing did, until my doctor had let me try to push him down myself. I told my midwife that, and she responded kind of snippy. She said, "If you need Pitocin, then you need Pitocin." She said she'd be back in a little while to check me again to see if the baby would drop.

After my midwife left, I started to secretly push down (just a little) at the peak of some contractions. I couldn't feel the contractions, but I could see them on the monitor. When my midwife checked me next, she was thrilled at my progress--our baby dropped to -1! There was no more talk of Pitocin. As she felt my dilation, my water broke. I gently pushed down through a few more contractions.

At some point (I can't remember when because the day went by in a blur!), I needed to be given medicine for my low blood pressure. I'd been at increased risk of high blood pressure during delivery because of my increased HCG levels early in the pregnancy. That was not an issue! My blood pressure dropped low, and our baby's heart rate dropped in response. I was put on oxygen and given some sort of blood thickener (I believe).

Around 3pm, I could really feel the pain of the contractions through the epidural. I couldn't talk through them, and I felt like I needed relief. The anesthesiologist's nurse gave me a boost of medication. It took the pain away, and that was what I wanted. However, it also made me feel drowsy and nauseated. It numbed me a little too much, and I couldn't feel any pressure at all. That's when my midwife came back. She checked me and announced I was ready to push! She and a nurse quickly got things ready. I told them I'd need their help telling me when to push because I was completely numb. Right when the told me to, I needed to vomit. Andrew had to help me throw up in a vomit bag three times. Once I was done throwing up, the nurses told me to push. I pushed, and I could feel our baby's head. They told me when to push the second time, too. Then, they told me I just needed one more good push and to do it when I was ready. On that third push at 3:30pm, Joanna Elizabeth was born.

Jo was put on my chest immediately. I broke down in tears. Both times I've experienced childbirth, I've worried I wouldn't feel bonded to my baby immediately. Thankfully, that isn't a problem I've ever experienced. I felt a flood of emotion, but it was mostly love. She was beautiful. Somehow, she had dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, and even a cleft chin.

Andrew snapped this photo within minutes of delivery:

Five minutes or so passed, and my midwife asked Andrew to cut the cord. He did, and cut it cleanly with one slice (as he'd done after Oliver's birth). I held her and nursed her for her first hour of life. After that, Andrew got to hold her, and she was finally measured and weighed. Baby Jo weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 ounces and measured 20 inches.

It took longer for me to deliver the placenta. It didn't detach by itself, and my midwife had to manually remove it. I wonder if the reason it didn't detach was related to the bleeding I'd experienced earlier in the pregnancy. Perhaps not. As my midwife worked to dislodge the placenta, I was quite grateful I was still numb from the previous boost of medication from the anesthesiologist's nurse. If I hadn't been, I think that would have been the worst part of the entire labor and delivery. She quickly stitched up a "superficial tear" that I assume only required one stitch. I was quite pleased that I wouldn't have to deal with another 4th degree tear!

My legs regained feeling fairly quickly. After an hour, I was able to get up, walk, and use the washroom (albeit slowly and with help from the nurse). Shortly after that, we received our first visitors.

Here is our first family shot, which captures the first time Oliver met his baby sister:

Oliver was very cuddly and didn't want to leave my side. I got to hold both of my babies. Amazing.

Grandpa Larry got to hold his first granddaughter, Joanna:

Grandma Judy also got to hold Jo, the grand baby named after her mother:

And here is Grandma Colleen holding Jo, who she believes is the most beautiful baby to enter the world since Oliver:

We transitioned to our room in Maternity. I was pleasantly surprised they had a room for us! Apparently, there were so many births between Monday and Tuesday that they'd run out of rooms. Many people had to stay in their labor rooms.

This photo of Jo was taken about 6 hours after birth. She still hadn't been cleaned from delivery. In fact, she didn't get cleaned until nearly 1:00am--that's how busy the hospital was!

We didn't even get to try sleeping until the wee hours of the morning. Even then, nurses went in and out, dropped things, bumped into our beds, and just generally woke us up all night. Jo, on the other hand, slept soundly through it all. I had to wake her to nurse, and, even then, she was too tired to try latching on a couple of times. We managed to survive the first night, and, in the morning, we were rewarded with a visit from Oliver! Once again, he was thrilled to see us and his sister.

Joanna, Day 2, finally cleaned up:

Mother & Daughter:

Father & Son:

Oliver even taught Grandpa Larry how to play Angry Birds:

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