Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Missed Moments: The Birth (of Declan)

So my birth experience with Eleanor was, overall, even better than I had hoped for. It was very quick, I made it through without pain meds, and I woke up already in labor so I didn't spend a lot of time worrying about false contractions. The second time around, I hoped for more of the same.

Ha! First of all, as I have already extensively complained about, Declan was a week late. A week! That's like a whole other 9 months to a hugely pregnant woman. The waiting is excruciating. Plus, I had serious false contractions on 2 or 3 separate occasions. I woke up in the middle of the night with a tingle of anticipation, sure that it was happening just like Eleanor ... and then nothing.

I tried very hard to wait patiently and go into labor naturally. As we waited for Declan (or "Little Sibling" as we called the baby before it was born) to decide to make an appearance, I had several non-stress tests and an ultrasound to make sure the baby was still safe and happy in the womb. The ultrasound estimated the baby's weight at 8 lbs, 13 oz, and my doctor strongly encouraged me to think seriously about inducing.

I was adamant about waiting, though. I would let this baby come when it was ready; I wasn't going to be induced just because it was more convenient and easier for me. Plus, if I were induced that labor would probably take longer, and I would probably be more likely to need the epidural .... I felt like inducing would start a domino effect of many choices taking me further and further from the natural birth I had experienced with Eleanor, and wanted again.

And yet. I had another follow-up appointment on a Monday, exactly a week after the original due date. Sunday night, Keith and I discussed it and I was still firm in waiting as long as possible before being induced. My doctor had told me he was willing to wait until Wednesday, and that's how long I would give it. But as I stood in the shower Monday morning before my appointment, I suddenly had this feeling that this baby was NEVER going to choose on its own to come it. It was digging in its heels (quite literally, it seemed like I could feel them poking my ribs) and would not be coming out unless forced. I finished my shower, got dressed, and came downstairs.

"I want to be induced," I announced to a very surprised Keith.

We were still surprised, however, when we got to the appointment and I told the doctor I wanted to be induced. I figured he'd tell me to check into the hospital that night to be put on a Pitocin drip, and the baby would be born in the morning. Instead, he told us he's not at the hospital on Tuesdays, so I could either check into the hospital in a couple hours and the baby would be born that very night, or I could wait and check in late night Tuesday, so the baby was born Wednesday morning.

Well, since I had decided I was done waiting, hanging around for another day and a half before checking into the hospital for an inducement wasn't really an option. If I was going to be induced, I wanted to just go ahead and do it!

So we went home, made sure our bags were packed and made arrangements for Eleanor's care, and headed to the hospital. It felt so surreal, to be casually driving to the hospital on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, knowing that next time I drove home, it would be with a baby.

As I had feared, choosing the induction changed the whole progression of labor. We were at the hospital for nearly two hours before the paperwork and initial assessments were done, and I was put on the low level Pitocin drip. Then I was on that for about 3 hours with very minor cramping--definitely nothing strong enough to feel like I was in labor.

We'd asked my parents and Keith's mom to bring Eleanor up to the labor and delivery room during this low-key phase of the process. When we'd said good-bye to her before preschool that morning, we had been expecting to pick her up a few hours later and continue on with life as normal. Instead, we went to the hospital and she went to a friend's house, and it made me sad to think that it had been our last moment as a family of three and we'd missed it.

Unfortunately, with Eleanor's nap the timing worked out that they arrived mere moments after the doctor broke my water. That meant it wasn't low-key and casual anymore, but getting to serious labor very quickly. I wanted so much to enjoy some time with Eleanor and our families, but immediately the contractions were very intense. Keith saw the look on my face as I tried to refrain from showing Eleanor that I was in any sort of discomfort and he quickly shooed everyone else out of the room.

The doctor stopped by again not long after that and told me that everything was progressing quickly; if I wanted an epidural, it would have to be soon. This time around, I didn't really even try to resist the lure of a nearly pain-free labor and delivery. I'd had too much time sitting in the hospital, thinking about what was coming. Add to that the fact that the real contractions started when Eleanor was visiting, and I felt completely unprepared, mentally, to handle a natural birth.

In retrospect, I don't think the pain was any worse than it had been the first time around, but my reaction to it was the polar opposite. Instead of breathing through it and focusing on something else, I focused 100% on the pain and kept telling myself just how painful and terrible it really was. That's not really a good pain management strategy.

So, shortly after that, I got the epidural and Keith and I settled back into the low-key waiting phase. We watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!. By this point I was starting to feel more pressure, so I figured the epidural was wearing off.

The doctor reappeared (what do they do in-between?) and announced that the increased pressure actually meant that I was ready to start pushing. Which also meant I'd been ready to start pushing for some time, but hadn't realized it. Whoops! "That happens all the time," the nurse assured me. Well then, why didn't anymore warn me that increased pressure did NOT mean the epidural was wearing off, and I should call for the doctor?!?

But I digress. One minute we were watching Final Jeopardy in a comfortable hotel room with low lighting. The next minute, the end of the bed was ripped away, people in surgical gloves and masks surrounded me, and intensely bright surgical lamps were shining in my face. It only took a few pushes, maybe 15 minutes if that, before Declan was born.

I was honestly surprised Declan was a "he." I was surprised when Eleanor turned out to be a girl, because for some reason Keith and I both thought she would be a boy. And I guess there was a part of me expecting Baby #2 to be a girl just because that's what happened the first time, even though I know logically that there's a 50/50 chance of either sex.

But a "he" it was. Keith and I immediately started crying and smiling as I held the baby in my arms. Eleanor was now officially a big sister, and we could finally meet and hold our new baby.


Amy said...

Isn't it weird that having a baby seems like a pretty straightforward thing, but that two regular births can be so different? All three of mine were so different, and two were even scheduled inductions. You'd think they'd be somewhat similar, but they really weren't.

Sounds like things are going pretty well with you guys, though -- hope you had a good Christmas!

M. Lubbers said...

First, thanks for making it through my much longer than usual post;) Second, we need to talk! I've been keeping up with your blog and I have a million comments to make, your writing is so thoughtful and thought-provoking ... I guess I end up not commenting because I don't even know where to start. But I'll try to be better, I promise!

Finally, it is crazy how different the birth process can be. I've learned my lesson. If I ever go through it again (?!?), I'll know better than to think I have any idea what will happen.