Great Expectations: Levi's Birth Story

Levi decided to begin his decent into the world at 5am on Monday, January day before his due date.

I awoke to my first true contractions and thought, "So this is what a real contraction feels like. It's a lot like the menstrual cramps I've experienced my whole life except they stop every so often." I also realized quickly that I was having some back labor as well, but I hoped that it didn't mean Levi was facing the wrong way or sunny side up as I've heard it called. I hung out on the couch and watched some TV for the next four hours wondering if this was really "IT". I had yet to wake Adam since it was so early and I wanted to be sure I was in fact in labor before sounding the alarm.

Around 9am I woke Adam and told him I thought today was THE DAY. We were going to have this baby! I was pretty giddy with excitement even in the midst of the occasional contractions. I wasn't really sure how to time them yet because I was having trouble telling when one would start and finish. Adam awoke in a sort of disbelief. I'm pretty sure he didn't feel I seemed like I was in "enough" pain to really be in labor. I promised that these were "real" contractions, very different from the Braxton-Hicks I had been experiencing for months. Adam asked if I had called our doula Sarah yet to let her know what was going on and I hadn't, so I gave her a call. She asked how far apart the contractions were and I told her that was the thing, I could not figure out how to time them exactly. She explained the timing once more and I told her I'd keep her posted. Adam and I decided to try and time them or at least figure that situation out. I was also starving from being up since 5, so he volunteered to make breakfast and asked what I wanted. Pancakes of course! I had been craving them like crazy over the past month or so and eating them any chance I got...breakfast, didn't matter.

So we ate pancakes and had some coffee and the next thing I knew the contractions were gone. They had disappeared completely! Man was I disappointed to admit that Adam was right...I was not "really" in labor and today might not be the day. I felt like calling the doula already had jinxed things, so I moped back to bed to take a nap just in case things decided to resume later. Adam on the other hand informed me that he was going to go for a run to get some "street cred" since it was pretty darn cold out. He left and I texted the doula that the contractions had stalled, so I'd keep her posted if they started up again and in the meantime I was going to sleep. She agreed that getting some rest was the right choice and off to dreamland I went.

I napped for a few hours and awoke well rested. I guess it had all been one big false alarm. I guessed that was pretty typical in first pregnancies. It's not like I knew what to expect already. It was Adam's day off, so we hung out around the house since it had become pretty uncomfortable for me to get around the past few days. The pressure I felt all the time was annoying and I was constantly peeing to try and find some relief. I do remember noticing what I thought might be my mucus plug at one point in this waiting period, so I thought maybe I'd really go into labor in the next few days and not be too past my due date. At least I shouldn't need to worry about an induction, which was a relief.

Around 5pm that night the contractions resumed, but I didn't get too excited this time because I figured it was just another false alarm. Adam started timing the contractions on his phone and I let the doula know that they had started again and we figured they were about 12 minutes apart if we were timing things correctly. I know we ate dinner, but I have absolutely no recollection of what we had. I just knew I needed to eat because I'd need the energy to get through the labor process.

I tried to remember the different relaxation positions we had learned in our natural childbirth class. My favorite was kneeling in front of the couch and resting my head on a pillow while breathing through the contraction. The back labor was sadly still there! Samson did not understand why I would kneel or sit on the floor and he kept trying to play with me or cuddle up next to me, which did have me laughing at a few points because if you've spent time with my dog you'll know how he likes to rub against people's hair or clothes to pick up their scent and this was precisely what he would try to do, but it was also not helpful when I was in the midst of dealing with the contraction, so Adam had to keep him entertained and away from me as much as possible because for the most part I had little in the sense of patience.

Around 9pm the contractions were now falling at about 8 minutes apart, so I went ahead and called my mom to let her know I was indeed in labor. She and Brad were just waiting for the call since they already had Southwest plane tickets and could rearrange their flight schedule as needed. Sadly there were no more flights out that night, so they'd have to take the first flight in the morning. My mom was convinced I'd have a quick labor like she's had with me (6 hours) and my sister (4 hours), and she wanted to be at the hospital while I was laboring or at least by the time Levi was born. Adam and I wanted to go through the labor and delivery on our own, but she wanted to be available just in case I needed her, but now she didn't think she'd even make it in time for the baby's actual birth. I assured her that it could be quite a while still and I was excited to have her here to help with the baby after he'd arrived rather than have wasted her visit waiting for him to make his grand debut. She even contemplated jumping in the car and driving to Boston right then, but again I told her she'd arrive around the same time as tomorrow morning's flight and at least flying she'd come well rested. I then assured her I'd keep her updated on my progress and we'd see her tomorrow, hopefully with a new baby!!!

Adam called Sarah, our doula, to check in and she told him to try and get me to walk around, even do the stairs a few times to help get things moving along. We were still doing just fine on our own, so we didn't have her come to the house yet. I decided that doing the stairs was far from anything I felt like doing at the moment, but it'd be good to find something to keep me at least standing so gravity could help things along some. What was my activity of choice you might ask...I decided to bake scones. They seemed like a delicious snack...nothing too complicated, fancy or too sweet, so I headed into the kitchen and bake I did pausing every few minutes or so to lean on the counter and breath through a contraction. The scones baked and we munched on a couple when they were right out of the oven and piping hot.

I sent out an email to my women's Bible study and our small group letting them know we were in labor, so they could be praying and I texted a few friends from home as well who I knew would be super excited to hear that Baby Herndon was on his way.

Adam was still on contraction timing duty and the next thing we knew the contractions were coming every three minutes or so, to which he responded, "That can't be right! We're supposed to call the midwife when the contractions are 5 minutes apart. What happened to them being 5 minutes apart?! How can they suddenly be coming every three?" I assured him with each new contraction that it was indeed yet another and that perhaps I should go ahead and call to which he agreed.

I called the midwife and dealt with a contraction or two while on the phone and she said we should go ahead and come in, but that depending on how far along I was we might not get to check in right away or we'd have to see the OB at first because there were quite a few women already in labor. It was a full moon, so the whole theory of more women going into labor with a full moon seemed to be coming true as well. Adam got Samson ready for bed in his crate and headed out to get the car, while I got my bags and pillows together to head to the hospital. I also called Sarah and told her to go ahead and meet us at the hospital since we'd been given the green light to come in.

The ride to the hospital was super uncomfortable! I am so thankful we didn't live farther away because contractions in a cramped car "SUCKED". I even texted that to my mom on the exact words, "Labor in the car SUCKS!!!" It had been snowing some that evening, so the roads had a dusting, which also made me super nervous because our car was known to not handle well in the snow. It was this strange dichotomy of drive slow to keep my anxiety at bay so we get to the hospital safely, but drive as fast as you can to get me out of this car as soon as humanly possible!

We pulled into Brigham and Women's Hospital just before midnight, valeted the car and headed to the doorway below the stairs we had previewed during our meet the midwives night at the hospital (we never actually made it on a hospital tour...oh well...we had at least seen where to go and had an idea of what to do.) We answered a few questions and filled out a couple forms and were then taken to a triage room in the labor and delivery department. Our doula met us there while the baby's heart rate was monitored to see how he was handling the contractions. Thankfully the nurse informed us that Baby Herndon was handling the contractions beautifully and she felt I was also dealing quite well with them, to which I responded that I was having a lot of back labor and I hoped that didn't mean he was sunny side up. She asked me if I was a nurse (nope) because she hadn't met many women who were aware of this, which I found funny since we'd learned about it in our birthing class complete with baby doll through stuffed pelvis demonstration. Laying on the exam table being monitored was definitely not the best way to deal with labor, but our doula was also able to relieve some of the back labor by applying counter pressure on my lower back during the contractions. Finally the midwife who was on rotation that evening arrived and did an internal exam. I was 4cm dilated, which meant I could be officially admitted and shown to a labor and delivery room.

After being in our first room for an hour or so and laboring leaning on a dresser, the nurse informed us that the toilet in this room was like a bidet spraying everywhere upon flushing and there was no shower curtain either for some reason. We were then moved down the hall to a new room where we'd call home the remainder of the process.

It was now the middle of the night and while I was encouraged to lose track of time, it was impossible to ignore the clock on the wall and the minutes seemed to be ticking away in slow motion. I labored on the birthing ball for another hour or so with the help of the heating pad and counter pressure. The midwife stopped by and reminded me that many women enjoy laboring in the hot shower and perhaps I should try it, so I said why not. It's worth a try. There was a chair in the shower where she propped up a couple pillows and I climbed in wearing the hospital gown. I let the warm water run over my belly and had a few moments to myself, which was actually nice in a way, but there was no relief for the back labor and I found myself getting cold anywhere I couldn't keep wet with the shower head, so after a half hour or so I climbed out, changed into a dry hospital gown and headed back to the birthing ball.

Around 5am I was beginning to feel exhausted myself and began questioning whether I'd be able to get through labor naturally. The contractions would come and I began finding it more and more challenging to relax and breath through. My mind was starting to play tricks on me. I began second guessing myself, thinking maybe I would need an epidural. I even remember saying, "I so envy my mom and friends who had quick labors. Gosh if I only had to deal with this for 6 hours I know I could do it." I felt like the contractions weren't that much worse, but I was not handling them nearly as well as I had been able to earlier. Around this time the midwife returned to check my progress. She informed us that if I hadn't progressed enough we might have to speed things along a bit by either introducing petocin or breaking my water. I was NOT pleased to hear this especially since she hadn't even checked my progress yet. I knew that this was how the domino effect would begin with petocin, followed by an epidural, which I was already beginning to wonder if I'd need. After she checked me, I was 6cm and therefore had progressed enough on my own, so no interventions were necessary, but again I mentioned how tired I was becoming, so she suggested that rather than jumping to an epidural I could consider some medication that would provide a bit of a reprieve and while I'd still feel the contractions I'd be able to rest a bit and I could still have an epidural later if I felt I needed it. Adam and I took a few minutes to talk this option over with Sarah and asked the midwife about what effects it could have on the baby. She informed us that it could make him a little sleepy, but it was early enough that the medicine would run its course by the time he was ready to be delivered. I didn't want to let myself or Adam down by not going completely natural, but at the same time I felt this was my best option getting some relief and conserving energy so that I could still have him naturally, so we decided to go ahead with the medicine.

I would now need an IV because part of the medicine would be given by shot but the other part would be given intravenously. Unfortunately I had become dehydrated and had to be stuck three times, once in each hand and then in the crux of my arm in order for the nurse to start the IV. It stunk! I was left with a couple nice bruises and plenty of frustration. The baby would also need to be monitored continuously, so I laid on my side in the bed and waited for the medicine to kick in. I never felt loopy or foggy as I was told I might, but I was able to shut my eyes and rest during a good portion of each contraction only waking at the height of each to deal mostly with the back labor and each time Sarah would provide counter pressure to help too.

The midwife also encouraged Adam and Sarah to tag team helping me because it could still be a long night/day ahead. It was around this time that Adam really began to regret his five mile run earlier that day. He was beginning to feel very tired, so I told him try and nap since I had Sarah there helping me with counter pressure. He pulled out the recliner and laid down to rest. I don't think he was ever really out out, but at least he had a chance to shut his eyes and rest up for the more intense parts of labor that were headed our way.

The next couple hours continued with me resting between the height of the contraction. Just before 7am, Sarah left to get some coffee and Adam was laying beside me pushing on my back to help with the pain when suddenly I felt the need to move. I desperately wanted to get off the monitor and out of the bed. I remember asking where all the medical people were because I needed to get up and quick! I realize now this was the start of transition because I remember reading that many women feel the need to suddenly change positions. This was also right around the shift change at the hospital, so within minutes of feeling the sudden need to move, a new midwife came on the scene and just in the nick of time. Her name was Elizabeth, a Haitian woman with a lovely accent, who was like a breath of fresh air. She helped me up, elevated the bed so I could lean on it and quickly coached Adam on how to help in this new phase of labor. I remember draping my arms over his shoulders as I tried to relax and breath through each new and more intense contraction.

Elizabeth was in and out checking on me. Then I was leaning on the bed again, Adam helping with counter pressure to my back and Sarah standing in front of me making sure I was drinking between contractions. I was also encouraged to eat, which is very unique to this hospital, but they know how helpful eating and drinking is to having the energy necessary for delivery. Even though I wasn't particularly interested in food, I forced myself to take the occasional bite of croissant, which Adam had bought for me from Au Bon Pain earlier in the night. Instead of water, I was encouraged to drink ginger ale because again I'd need the sugar and calories when it came time to push.

By this point I had lost complete track of time. Elizabeth said it'd be anytime now that I might feel the urge to push and I was definitely feeling intense pressure. She checked me and I had progressed to 9cm, but my water had yet to break. The delivery nurse also checked my IV port around this time and found it was no longer in the vein, which meant at 9cm I had to lie still while she started yet another IV in my wrist. Thankfully I was no longer dehydrated and she got the vein on the first try. Phew! My water finally broke when Elizabeth was checking me at 9.5 cm and I began feeling the urge to push. She did one final check to be sure my cervix was fully dilated and told me I was free to push whenever I was ready.

Suddenly I felt the need to get pushing, so they positioned me in bed, Sarah holding one leg and the delivery nurse holding the other while Adam held my hand and stayed by my side where he could cheer me on. Elizabeth said three pushes and this baby would be out. I pushed with all my might and was told to direct my vocalizations inward and down toward the baby. I was told to use every ounce of energy toward the pushing. With each contraction I'd get two solid pushes in and sometimes a third before taking a breath and regrouping. I can remember the midwife's voicing cheering, "more more more" with each good push.  I remember thinking this was the hardest I'd ever worked, but it felt good to be able to actually do something productive rather than just breathing through the pain. The midwife said he'd be out in under an hour, so I stayed focused and kept on keeping on. Even when asked if I wanted to see what was happening I declined because I was so focused and didn't want any distraction. I could no longer feel the pain of the contractions in fact at times I couldn't even tell if the contractions were still there. All I knew was after catching my breath for a second, I needed to push again and push with all my might I did as Adam stood beside me encouraging my hard work. The midwife was using lubricants and some sort of numbing gel, so I never felt the ring of fire I'd heard about. I remembered a friend telling me that at the moment when you feel your body can't take it anymore, the baby will finally arrive, but I never felt this way either, so I was afraid we still had a long way to go. It had been just under two hours and after some adjustments to the bed to help the baby maneuver under the pelvic bone and some time for the baby to turn because he was indeed postior or sunny side up as I had suspected from all the back labor, he made one final turn and headed out into the world.

I felt a twinge of concern as I saw him quickly carried over to the warmer rather than being placed directly on my chest as I'd hoped. I learned later this was because he'd swallowed some birth fluid as he'd made his final decent. It was only a matter of seconds, but as he approached the warmer we heard his first cries and I breathed a sigh of relief that he was here and everything was okay. I looked up at Adam who had tears in his eyes as he said I'd done it! I could feel how proud he was of me and the work I'd done. As soon as he'd been checked out, they brought him over and placed him in my arms.  It was a moment of pure joy!
After I delivered the placenta and the few minor tears were stitched up, I was thankful to have my female parts finally left alone. Our doula congratulated us on a beautiful birth. It was the first she'd been apart of completely on her own and we were so thankful to have had her there. Hiring a (student) doula was one of the best decisions we could have made. I also loved hearing the midwife's and delivery nurse's encouragement of what a great midwife she's one day be.
The baby needed to be weighed, so Adam asked if he could carry his son over and even though they said they didn't normally like to let the new dads do so because the babies tended to be squirmy, he assured the staff he could handle it and they allowed him. Afterward, Sarah left us to have some alone time getting to know our son. We then invited my mom, who had made it straight to the hospital from the airport a half hour before he actually arrived, to come up to the delivery room while I breastfed for the first time.
Levi Sheldon Herndon made his grand entrance into this world at 12:35pm on January 29, 2013, and our lives will be forever changed.


Melinda Barker said...

Honey that was a birth story worth publishing! So proud of you an Adam! Love you, Momma

Jessica said...

Awesome job! He's perfect.

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