January 19, 2014

birth story

Alright you patient people, all blessed ten of you :) I'm not sure I remembered everything perfectly, but even if I'd written it the day after he came I don't think it would be perfect. So better late than never, here it goes. Fair warning, it's quite the novel.

We got to the hospital right at 2:30pm. It took us a couple minutes to find our way from the parking garage to labor & delivery, but we did eventually make it. The receptionist checked us in and then had us wait in a lobby area for a nurse to take us back. I was about to head to the bathroom when the charge nurse (also named Sarah) took us back to our room. 833... I think.  I'm so bad. It doesn't really matter though, does it? Of course I had grand plans of taking lots of pictures of the delivery room and the number outside the room, etc., but in the moment my creativity was pretty absent and I could care less. 

Anyway, we got to our room and I was so pleased by how clean and open it was. Huge room! They asked me for a urine sample and I remember thinking thank goodness I didn't just go to the bathroom and also, LAST TIME GIVING A URINE SAMPLE! hoo-rah.

I changed into the oh so flattering hospital gown. It took a while because my contractions were fairly close together, but I enjoyed being able to hang/squat on the sink in the bathroom.

The midwife on call, Kathryn O'Brien (Katie), came in to say hi. Such a big difference than with an OB (at least our OB with Madeline; we didn't see any doctors until he came in to break my water an hour and a half before she was born. And he barely made it to catch her). They hooked me up to the monitors to listen to his heart and track contractions for about twenty minutes.  While those were on the nurse made an attempt to place an IV port on my right arm. I'm really no wuss when it comes to needles, but oh my goodness that hurt. It was so much more painful than I'd ever remembered a needle feeling... and it didn't take. So she moved on to the other arm and thank goodness it worked. Still painful, but at least it was over. Katie also checked my cervix and I was at a 6! yay! Everything looked good so they let me off the monitors and left us alone.

I suppose now is a good time to mention that my birth plan with Luke was quite a bit different from my plan with Madeline. Giving birth to Madeline was a beautiful experience and I don't think I would change a thing even if I had the choice. It seemed to be right for us then and it resulted in a healthy and happy girl, which is all we ultimately wanted. But as I looked forward to Luke's birth I was much more open to other more natural options, mostly because I wanted more out of his birth. I hated being strapped to the bed through all of Madeline's labor. There were monitors on me constantly, a pitocin drip/IV, catheter because I couldn't pee by myself... an epidural at the end... it felt like I was literally chained to the bed by all the medical equipment. Also with Madeline a lot of choices were made for us, in part I think because we really hadn't done much research and we didn't have much of a plan other than, "If it hurts we'd like an epidural asap." Looking back I wish I hadn't let them give me pitocin right away, or I wish we had at least had a discussion about what was going on and what options we did have. But regardless, it's in the past and Madeline is healthy and that's that.

Looking forward, however, I did a lot of reading, talked to friends who had given birth naturally and really jumped on board pretty quickly. I decided I wanted to commit to it at least for this birth. I knew I'd regret not giving it a try. The more I learned the more I was drawn to the concept of my body knowing what to do and working with Luke's body to achieve such an overwhelmingly beautiful goal. The three books that I got the most out of were Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, The Husband Coached Childbirth and The Yoga Birth Method.  I'd recommend any of them, but I definitely enjoyed The Yoga Birth Method most. For me, at least, it gave me the most tools for actually being in labor. But the other two were helpful as well.

After they left us the contractions still weren't too bad. Jeremy and I played a round of Monopoly Deal. I was sitting 'indian style' on the bed facing him with a table between us. During each contraction I had to jump up and just not be sitting. It was a pretty long game. It wasn't comfortable to sit, but I guess it wasn't much better standing, it just felt better to be doing something, I think. A couple times I hugged Jeremy's neck during the contractions and that felt good. Maybe we should have done more of that.

After the first round I really didn't want to play anymore. Jeremy rolled out the yoga mat and I did some of the yoga poses I had practiced. That helped a lot but most of the moves were on my hands and knees and my wrists and knees got tired after a while. I had Jeremy go out to the car to get the exercise ball we'd borrowed from some friends (thanks Larsens!) One of the midwives had said they had a couple balls but occasionally they didn't have as many as they needed so she suggested bringing one to leave in the car just incase. I'm so glad I thought to ask to borrow theirs last minute. It felt really good to just sit on the ball. I'm thinking that was about 4:00? 5:00? I'm afraid I didn't pay very close attention to time. All I remember is I kept looking at the clock and I couldn't believe how fast time was going by, which wasn't what I had expected. I thought time would drag by and the minutes would feel like months.

After I'd been sitting on the ball for a while the midwife came back in to put the monitors on for a little while. She had a portable monitor which was nice because I could keep sitting on the ball. Katie and I talked for a while about lots of different stuff. She's young and just has two kids so it kind of felt like I was just chatting it up with a friend. Worked well as a distraction :) Funny enough, I wasn't her only patient scheduled to be induced that night and the other patient had gone into labor on her own, too. Luckily (for me) I was progressing much faster so she'd go and check on the other patient but really hung out in our room since I was further along and it was my second. Katie told me there were some relaxing programs on the tv that she had used when she gave birth. It sounded nice, so she turned them on for me. They weren't quite as great as I'd hoped, but it was still refreshing.

Another thing I loved about this labor vs. with Madeline was they were all about me staying super hydrated so they kept bringing me drinks! Whereas with Madeline they only let me have ice chips. Every half hour they'd ask me what else I wanted to drink. Wish I'd kept track of how many big cups of apple juice and water I drank. Of course that meant I had to go to the bathroom a lot, but they wanted that, too. Definitely a perk of going natural, though!

I can't remember why I got back on the bed, but I did end up there again. Maybe the contractions were getting stronger? I don't know. I was feeling a LOT of pressure though, so Katie decided to check my cervix again.  Pretty sure she said I was at a 9.5 then. She also said my sack of water was really low? Which explained all the pressure. I'm pretty sure it was 6:30 or 7:00 then. I remember getting a surge of energy feeling like we were almost to the end and going to be meeting Luke soon. There was some discussion about the option to break my water so probably hurray things along, but I was very mindful of how much more painful the contractions were after the doctor broke my water with Madeline so I asked that we hold off, which they were totally ok with. The nurse set up the table with all the delivery equipment just to be ready.

Katie went to check on her other patient again, she was pretty concerned about not being there when I was ready to push so she was quick. The adrenaline kept coming and so did the excitement. At about 7:30 I remember thinking,"We're going to have a baby by 8:00!!!" But around 8:00 the contractions started coming further apart. They were still PLENTY strong, but not as close together. By that point my energy was gone and I was just exhausted and so ready to be done.

I laid over on my side and held Jeremy's hand really tightly. He was stroking my hair which felt really good. I felt ok between contractions but during each one I just couldn't relax. It was hard. It was not that 'beautiful bodies-working-together/my body was made to do this' feeling I had imagined. It hurt, I was dizzy and nauseous and uncomfortable. During each contraction I begged Jeremy for an epidural (pretty sure it was too late even if he'd have let me. We had a conversation before we got to the hospital about how he wasn't going to let me give in). And I'm so glad he didn't, even if at the time I felt a little, not angry with him, but like, "Oh easy for you to say no, you're not feeling anything." He stayed really calm and just kept saying positive things, which I was really grateful for, and even more grateful for in hindsight. I just now realized I never saw his face through the worst of it. My eyes were closed or staring at his hands around mine. Several days later as we talked about the birth, pros/cons he opened up and told me how hard it was for him to watch me go through all that pain. I'm grateful he let me, though. I really don't know how people do this (labor or parenting) alone. I'm so blessed to have such a great partner by my side. Love that guy.

Alright moving on from all the mushy stuff, where were we... oh yeah, the longest hour and a half of my life. I kid you not. It was hard. Probably because I thought I was almost done and then I wasn't... Around 9:20 (I think) Katie decided it was time to break my water (I think she knew I needed a little shove to get the deed done - and she was right). That has to be one of the strangest feelings. That flood of warmth... not my favorite. After that I don't remember the contractions being too much more painful, but they were still painful and picking up a little in frequency. I was so hot and sweaty after that. I asked Jeremy to get a hair tie out of the bag and he couldn't find one. I knew I'd put about ten in there, but I couldn't remember exactly where. Eventually the nurse let me know she had a new one in her fanny pack (yessssss!) My hair was a hot mess but I didn't care. It was off my neck.

The pressure was intense. I was so uncomfortable but didn't feel like moving. The idea of squatting sounded nice but it literally felt impossible. Like a bowling ball was between my legs! I know why people say that now. I had to be sitting facing forward, somewhat reclined when she broke my water and I hadn't moved since. I was not in a good pushing position and I knew it, but I couldn't figure out how to do anything different. She asked if I wanted to lay on my side to push but that didn't sound great. I mentioned that squatting sounded kind of nice and with that she pushed a couple buttons and the lower half of the bed moved down and the upper half sat more straight up. Does that make sense? So I was pretty much in a supported squat. Still didn't feel ideal, but I don't know that anything feels ideal at this stage of labor.

She kept asking if I wanted to push but I never felt "the urge". I don't know if I imagined a stronger urge than I'd ever feel or what but time kept passing and the contractions kept coming and we still didn't have a baby. Finally about 9:38 I was like, "Can I push yet?" and Katie said,"You can push whenever you want!" (So different from with Madeline when I was ready to push and knew it and the nurse asked me to wait because the doctor wasn't there yet). I still don't know that I ever felt that 'urge', maybe I was just really ready to be done. Either way I was ready to go and didn't really want to wait for anything. So I pretty much started pushing and Katie told Jeremy to call the nurse who happened to be out of the room for the first time in the last three hours. Jeremy called and said, "We're pushing". As the nurse was walking in, Katie reached in to feel how close his head was and it was just the distance of her finger tip to his head. I pushed a couple times and then as Jeremy says,"The screaming began". It's true, I was screaming like in a movie. You know, all those cheesy "hollywood deliveries"? That was me. Which is ironic because I made fun of those after having Madeline. Epidurals do have some perks ;)

Katie kept telling me how close I was and that I was almost done. I could feel his head almost out but it just felt like there was no way he would ever be able to fit through. I remember her telling me to relax and loosen up a little more and then his head was out. She told me to reach down and feel his head. I did and it was such a strange feeling. He was so slimy. She told me to give another good push and his shoulders were out and the rest of him pretty much just flopped out. Relief. I was done.

They put Luke right on my stomach. At that point I was so exhausted, I could hardly believe it had just happened. 9:41 and our little mister was here. I was really tired. I'd show you the pictures of him right on me because it really shows just how tired I was, but they aren't too terribly modest... I wanted to pull him up more on my chest but when I started to they told me not to because the placenta wasn't out yet and so the cord was tight. She clamped it and asked Jeremy if he wanted to cut it, which he did. We pulled off what was left of that hospital gown and Luke was finally up on my chest. He was so beautiful but I was a little concerned that he wasn't crying more. The nurses were checking on him and suctioning out all that gunk and he finally gave a few little cries. I kept thinking he was going to fall off of me because I was just so tired I felt like if he rolled I wouldn't be able to catch him. My arms felt so heavy to lift around him.

They draped those wonderful warm blankets on us. One of the nurses told me,"Everybody should have a blanket warmer in their house." And I couldn't agree more. Those things are magical. Then my placenta came out and it felt really good. After pushing a baby out the placenta almost felt like a massage. Is that weird? I think I even said,"Oh that felt so good!" Katie told me I hadn't torn at all and I was kind of ridiculously happy about that. No stitches for me! Another fun little fact, my placenta came out with my amniotic sac completely in tact. Katie thought it was pretty cool.
It hadn't been too long and we got Luke to nurse. He nursed on one side then the other and back to the first. 45 minutes! He was just really alert and I couldn't believe how smoothly our first nursing went. I was really grateful for the help the nurse and midwife gave me. They gave helpful tips and talked me through it instead of doing it for me. They didn't shove my breast into his mouth like Madeline's nurse...

During that time he was nursing we admired how beautiful he was and talked about how amazing it was that he was actually here. His left ear was really flat and kind of resembled an elf ear (it's since regained a normal shape). There was a nurse in there the entire time but she wasn't intruding on us at all.

After he was done eating I decided it was about time Jeremy got to hold his son... but when we lifted up the blanket we discovered Luke had pooped the lovely tar poop all over both of us. Somehow he coated both sides of the two blankets on us so there really wasn't an easy way for Jeremy to hold Luke without getting it all over his clothes.

But the nurse was ready to weigh him, measure him and do all that other stuff. He was 9lbs even and 20.75" long. She said his APGAR score was really good, I didn't think to ask what it was though. She cleaned him up a little and wrapped him up and gave him to Jeremy. Jeremy finally got to hold his son. What a patient guy (he did get to hold Madeline before me, though ;)

The nurse helped clean me up a bit and helped me get into a clean robe. It was so nice to be able to WALK! It was several hours before the epidural wore off enough for me to walk after having Madeline. We gathered up our stuff and she wheeled us up a couple floors to our room.
Had you asked me that day if I'd do it (naturally) again I'd have hesitated. The first five hours were great, not like a walk in the park, but very manageable. But that last hour and a half was brutal. The only other experience I can compare it to was hiking back from Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon. It's a ten mile hike to the most beautiful waterfall. I backpacked it with some of my family in high school. The hike back was alright until the last mile. All switchbacks to make it up 2000 feet in elevation. One mile, 2000 feet! I just remember feeling like it would never end and I'd die on the side of that cliff. But I made it. I'm pretty sure I thought the car was more beautiful than the waterfall.  

I made it through those last contractions, too. It was hard, but I'm glad I did it. It's amazing how your  mind has a way of sweeting memories. Even now at 3 weeks I've already decided I'd go natural again. There were just too many great things. Like being able to move during, drink water, walk right after and Luke was so alert right after he was born. Plus the care we got from the midwife practice, the whole pregnancy, really, but especially in the hospital.

I overheard the midwife talking to the nurse soon after Luke was born. She kept talking about how well I handled labor (which with my screaming I had to laugh at..) but overall how my body was just "made to have babies". It's nice to hear that. Glad to know these big hips are good for something ;)

Mostly I'm just so happy that we ended up with a beautiful baby boy. Luke has slipped seamlessly into our family. We're all still a little sleep deprived, but I'm glad to know it won't last forever :) 


  1. I loved reading this! I love your little family and Luke is adorable. I was really curious and waiting to read this because I knew you were going natural and I wanted to hear what you thought about. I liked the comparison! I have always wanted to go natural and I am glad to hear your honest experience. I can't wait to keep reading posts about Luke and your cute new family!
    Miss you!

  2. YOU ARE A CHAMPION!!! I can't imagine going all natural! The contractions I had the night before Jude was born were KILLING me. You're incredible! I'm glad you and your cute family are doing well!

  3. What a beautiful story! I am so glad that you were able to go natural and that you didn't need stitches! Beautiful baby boy and you look amazing in those photos for just giving birth! Go Sarah! Congrats again! I am so happy for you and for your beautiful family!

  4. Loved This! Loved The Pictures! Love You! AwesomeAwesomeAwesome


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