Bronce and I can hardly believe we’ve had precious Eleanor with us for 3 weeks now. She’s growing so much and is such a sweet baby. We’re adapting to the sleepless nights and trying to figure out how to switch her days/nights (since she seems to have them backwards!). But… I want to take some time to reflect on the night she was born. We met with Coleen, our doula, last night to discuss some of the postpartum questions she has for her families, and she delivered a bunch of pictures and our birth story. It was fun to read over it – we had lots of “I don’t remember that!” moments as we relived the 9 hours at the hospital as we awaited Eleanor’s arrival. Here are the details and some pictures of our adventure!
Thursday, January 13th
We had a doctor’s appointment this morning – he did an exam and found that I was 1 cm dilated and 25% effaced. An ultrasound claimed the baby was 8 lbs, 10 oz (I’m so glad this was super wrong!) At this time, the topic of induction started creeping into conversation, with Dr. R encouraging us to consider an induction on the 19th (the day after our due date). Because we were so interested in going forth with our plan for natural labor, this was very frustrating and we began praying immediately that something would happen soon. Thursday night Bronce and I went to the mall to do some serious walking to try to get the baby moving. Later that night I had contractions from 10-12:30 and they were anywhere from 8-12 minutes apart. I was able to get to sleep and ignore them eventually.
Friday, January 14th
I had contractions throughout the day Friday, but it was my last work day before maternity leave so I powered through and ignored them as best as I could. That evening they began coming more regularly, about 8 minutes apart from 6pm till midnight. Again, I was able to go to sleep and get through them eventually.
Saturday, January 15th
Saturday morning started like a normal weekend and around 11 am I began having regular contractions again. I monitored them and they were about 6 minutes apart all day. After a few uncomfortable hours I insisted Bronce and I leave the house and run some errands. We hit Babies R Us for a few last minute purchases and went to the grocery store to stock the fridge and pantry in case we weren’t able to leave the house again for a few weeks – this ended up being a great idea given what the night had in store for us!
Bronce’s parents wanted to go out to dinner that evening but I could tell I’d be very uncomfortable sitting in a restaurant feeling that way, so we had them over to our house instead. We ate dinner around 7 and planned to watch the Lady Vols Basketball game that evening. Partway through dinner, around 7:30, my contractions drastically changed from being manageable to incredibly uncomfortable and painful. They also immediately quickened from a set 6 minutes apart to 3-5 minutes apart. They alternated 3 minutes then 5 minutes every other contraction for the next hour or so. Linda and Larry could quickly sense my discomfort and left (taking our dog, Mr. B, with them), leaving Bronce and I to realize things were probably about to change for us.
We spent the next few hours at the house with me attempting different pain management strategies and Bronce packing (conveniently, he had put this off till now!). We went through our last-minute packing lists (things like toothbrushes and the iPod) and got the car all set. Meanwhile I alternated sitting on a birthing ball (a big inflated exercise ball), laying on the couch, walking around, leaning over the side of the couch, and taking a bath. The bath helped, though our tiny bathtubs hardly covered my big belly, providing minimal help. Finally about 11:30 p.m. I called Coleen, saying, “I’m about at the end of myself.” Coleen said she’d meet us at the hospital.
The drive to UT Medical Center was rough – Bronce was in a hurry but I was in a great deal of pain, so I was constantly urging him to slow down and not whip me around the corners so strongly. He was a champ, supporting me the whole way and soothing me as I was dealing with the sharp pains. We parked (I wouldn’t let him drop me off because I preferred to hold on to him as I walked in), grabbed our backpack of labor goodies, and headed in to meet Coleen at the elevators. Thankfully she was there – we probably would have had a hard time finding the right place to go in to the labor and delivery floor. She had a name badge that let her in through the doors so she was able to rush us back to triage quickly.
We sat at the triage desk and answered a bunch of questions. According to the nurses, we arrived at 12:01am. After taking the information, they moved us to a room to check me. Once in the bed, I said, “If they tell me its just cramps, I think I’ll hit someone.” Rosa checked me at 12:20 a.m. and was happy to tell me that I was 4-5 cm. dilated, 60% effaced and baby was at -2 station. We were staying to have this baby!! Bronce immediately called his parents and then called mine. My parents were already close to the hospital and Bronce’s dad came alone, since his mom was having some kind of allergic reaction. They started the INT (IV port) at 12:45 a.m. and then Dr. S came in to say hi. He was on call for Dr. R. At 1:00 a.m. we moved to Labor Room #11. By this point my contractions were getting stronger and were coming every 2-3 minutes.
I’m not sure if it is a general UT thing or just a factor of us being at the hospital late on a weekend night, but we had one nurse in our room with us the entire delivery. Her name was Barbara, and she was fantastic! When she found out we were doing natural labor she became our #1 cheerleader. She was incredibly supportive and spread the news to the other nurses on the floor who kept checking in on us and cheering us on as well – as one of them said, it’s rare that anyone does natural labor these days, but “it’s how we’re supposed to do it!” They were all great and so incredibly helpful.
Nurse Barb was having trouble understanding Bronce’s name. She said, “So it’s Bronce – like Charles Bronson. I thought it was Brice – like Brice Canyon.” At 1:20 a.m. my parents came in to check on me. Bronce’s dad was in the waiting room. During this time I tried different positions, standing/leaning on Bronce and swaying. Then I got on the birth ball – it wasn’t as comfortable as I’d hoped it would be since it put pressure on my pelvis in weird places.
At 2:00 a.m. my parents left the room and I took the birth ball in to the shower. I didn’t bring a sports bra, so I put on one of Bronce’s t-shirts. The water felt wonderful. Bronce put on the lounge pants that I had worn to the hospital, since they were his anyway. He rolled them up and got in the shower to help spray me. Barb got me some diet Coke to sip on. At one point I said, “This feels good! It makes the contractions so much better.” It really did!… the sensory changes from the warm water allowed me to talk, joke around, laugh, and manage my pain so much better. Bronce later told me he thought my labor had possibly stalled out since I seemed so comfortable. At one point Bronce’s dad came by and to take Bronce to the doctor’s lounge and get him some snacks. At 2:30 a.m. Barb found a shower chair and we replaced the birth ball with the chair. It was more comfortable for me than rolling on the bath ball and trying to keep my balance. Coleen noted that I said, “I can talk through my contractions again.”
Along the way Barb came in with the Doppler to check on baby’s heartbeat so I didn’t need to leave the shower to get hooked up to the machines. Coleen told me to stay in as long as I wanted, since it wasn’t going to be on my water bill. In fact, she mentioned that she once had a girl stay under the shower spray for 45 minutes. Being competitive, my initial thought was “I can make it way longer than that!” Considering how good it felt and how much it relieved my pain, it didn’t take competition to keep me in there – it was great! At this point I was mostly spraying myself. Bronce sat beside me just outside the shower on a round stool for a while. At 3:10 a.m. Bronce and I were chatting and he helped me breathe through the contractions as they got more severe. By 3:30 a.m. I was about ready to get out, but fearful also, since I was afraid the contractions were going to be hard to deal with out of the shower. Even knowing that was the case, I was getting bored in the shower and needed a change of scenery!
By 3:45 a.m. I was back to bed and Barb monitored me for 15 minutes. After that, I decided to get up to walk. Barb was very laid back about it, she just told us to come back when things got rough. We stopped by the waiting room to pick up my parents. We stood in the window for a few seconds wondering if they’d see us. Finally we knocked on the glass and they both jumped up, startled to see us. At this point Bronce’s dad had gone to lie down on a cot in his office. My parents walked with us for the next hour. We went to the first floor and walked to the new lobby and then down the hallway to the doctor’s office buildings.
Coleen encouraged me to add some sway to my walk – it hurt a lot but I started swinging my legs out wide to help widen my pelvis to bring the baby lower. My legs began to get weak as my contractions were getting stronger and I needed to stop and breathe through them. At one point we were all huddled over some chairs in a waiting room while I had a severe contraction and some people stopped us to see if we were okay – they quickly left us alone when I spoke up “everything’s okay! I’m in labor!” We returned to the room at 4:36 a.m when my legs got too weak to walk around much more.
At 4:43 a.m. Barb checked and found that I was 7-8 cm. dilated, 100% thinned out and baby was down to 0 station. Coleen went out to tell my parents – Bronce and I got emotional as we realized how close we were to having our baby here! At 4:50 a.m. I asked for some narcotic pain relief to get some rest – I was given a 25 mg. dose of IV Fentanyl. That dose didn’t really make much of a difference for my contractions, though I was able to relax a bit. I was lying on my side in bed, doing pant-blow breathing and listening to praise music. “How great is our God” was the first song, and Coleen reminded me that God was there with us. Bronce called his dad with an update and woke him up. His response was, “Wow!” At 5:20 a.m. I began feeling some pressure and felt a weird “pushing” urge – not a true desire to push but a new and different kind of pain. Barb found that I “hardly have any cervix left – 9 cm.” My water broke with some pressure from the cervical check. It was clear. At 5:27 a.m. I received a 50 mg. dose of Fentanyl and I tried resting – hardly possible with the increased pressure of the contractions when my water had been broken! The pain increased exponentially when that happened. At 5:40 a.m. I had a slight anterior lip. We had been talking about if this baby would have hair, and at 6:00 a.m. Barb said, “You’re going to have a cute little furry baby.”
At 6:08 a.m. I began pushing, my cervix was totally thinned out. I can remember the beginning of pushing when Coleen gave me instructions: “Take a deep breath in and out. Take another deep breath and hold it while you push for three long pushes.” Those directions seem rather simple, but they were actually very difficult for me to follow and it took quite a few pushes for me to get the rhythm correct. Bronce and Coleen counted to 10 with each push but I got really ticked off at them for coaching me like this: “Deep breath in… and out… Another deep breath… hold it… and… (pause…pause…pause…) 1…2…3…” Those pauses drove me crazy. At one point I yelled at them for counting too slow (I really meant that they weren’t starting to count soon enough after I had the deep breath held) and I began counting loudly for myself. They laughed and thought it was funny but at the time I was in no mood to chuckle with them. During many of the contractions Bronce counted for me alone and I could hear his voice cracking as he got glimpses of our baby getting closer to being born. It was a really emotional time for both of us as we went through the experience of birth together.
At 6:13 a.m. my baby’s heart rate went down and I needed oxygen and was turned on my side – strangely, I barely remember this happening except that the oxygen dried out my mouth so badly I wanted to refuse it when they gave it to me. I pushed on that one side, then at 6:26 a.m. I was pushing in a semi-sitting position. From then on I didn’t need the oxygen and baby’s heart rate was fine. They attached a squat bar to the end of the hospital bed and I was able to sit up, throw my arms over the bar, and sit in a full squat to push. The positioning for pushing was great, but getting up and down between pushes was extremely painful so I didn’t last long like this and laid back down in the bed. They did keep the bar up and I rested my feet on it between pushes.
Using the squat bar:
I had a hard time handling the pain and the only way I knew to let everyone know that it was bad was by saying, “I want an epidural.” They told me that it was too late but that I could get a Pudendal block. Barb thought it was too soon (the meds only last an hour and we had no idea how long I’d be pushing). She said, “Don’t let the pressure scare you.” I responded, “It hurts.” At 7:20 a.m. I was tired and discouraged but we were starting to see the head. Coleen had me reach down and touch my baby, which was incredible! It gave me a burst of energy to know that we were that close to the end. At this point Bronce was holding my right leg and Coleen was holding my left – Bronce used his free hand to text our family updates between contractions.
By this time the nurses had switched shifts (shift change was at 7am). Barbara and some of the other nurses on the floor refused to leave until they saw our baby born, so they clocked out and stayed in the room to cheer us on. Eventually the room was full… Bronce and Coleen, Dr S and his nurse, Barbara and two or three nurses from the previous shift, the nurses that were on shift now (the delivery and baby nurses), plus the NICU staff that was soon to arrive. There were easily 15 people in the room observing my labor and I didn’t even care! It’s such a strange feeling to have your inhibitions leave the room when something more important is going on!
Finally at 7:50 a.m. Dr. S came in to give me a Pudendal block. This might have been the most painful part of the whole process. The idea is that by blocking the pain in my perineum, the “pushing” part wouldn’t be as bad because I wouldn’t feel the stretching or tearing. However, we’d waited so long before he did the block that he almost wasn’t able to get it in. He had to check and see if he could feel the right nerves (um… PAIN!!!!) and when he realized he could, he warned me it would be that kind of painful as he put the block in. I did some deep breathing and he got started. Good lord, it hurt so bad. I made it through and gasped for breath when he was done, only to hear him say “Okay! Got the first one.” I’m pretty sure I yelled at this point, and possibly yelled right at him. First one?! As in… there was another? He humorously replied “God made us symmetrical! There are two nerves.” Gah… okay. So he got the second block in place and… well… I honestly don’t know if it made a difference. I don’t recall that part of my anatomy causing me any problems for the rest of the delivery, but there was so much going on it’s hard to tell.
About twenty minutes later (2 hrs into pushing!) at 8:10 a.m. he offered to use the vacuum extractor to get the baby out. He thought it might take me 30 – 60 minutes longer without the vacuum. By this point I was exhausted and ready for any assistance (short of a c-section or something that dramatic) that could be offered to speed up the delivery. I turned to Coleen and she said, “Yes” since I was so tired and had been working so long. Later she told me she regretted making that decision for me and not talking me through my options, but I’m incredibly grateful she said that. I really needed her to make a decision for me at that time, and it was awesome that she just quickly told me what to do. Bronce and I were both relieved! They got the vacuum applied at 8:20 a.m. – it’s not at all what we thought it would be. First off, it’s not a machine as the name implies… it’s a manual suction cup that the doctor engages with his hand and sucks on the top of the baby’s head. It allows him to gently pull on the back of the skull to get the kiddo out. They gave me local anesthesia in the perinea tissue. Dr. S said it is only the skin that is holding this baby back, and he cut an episiotomy. As much as I didn’t want that to happen, I’m glad we did it because things happened so much faster! I began calling out and praying, “Please God, let the baby come out with this contraction!” Coleen leaned over and quietly reminded me that God was helping me.
With me pushing and him pulling, our baby was born at 8:28 a.m. on a cold and clear Winter Sunday. When she came out they set her right on my chest, possibly the most surreal moment of my life! (In the picture below, that’s my nurse Barbara over my shoulder)
Bronce cut the cord. I asked, “What is it?” fully expecting it would be a boy. Dr. Schoutko said, “It’s a girl!” and put her on my chest. I was shocked and had them check again to be sure. Everyone was laughing – we’d been calling the baby “Graham” for the last few hours and instead we had an Eleanor! The picture below displays my shock the second he said “Girl”:
Within the next few minutes as we absorbed this shocking information, Bronce and I both responded with different “practical” responses… I said, “All I brought was boy stuff.” Bronce quietly exclaimed “I’m going to have to pay for a wedding!”
I only got to hold her on my chest for a few minutes – because we’d used the vacuum to extract her, the NICU team was in place to check her out (Since most vacuum-assisted births are due to distress, it’s procedure for the team to be there and they had to see her first.) Bronce followed her as they checked her out – meanwhile the placenta was removed at 8:32 a.m. and they gave me Pitocin in my IV to help my uterus contract. Eleanor was 7 lb. 6 oz. and 20” long. She had lots of hair and long fingers and toes.
Bronce, with Eleanor’s footprint on his shirt:
I had a 2nd degree tear of the perineum. While Dr. S was stitching me up, Bronce was over at the warmer, looking at Eleanor. Her APGAR scores were 8 at one minute and 9 at 5 minutes. At 8:43 a.m. I was holding her again and she was making sweet little baby noises.
Here’s a picture of me, Eleanor, and our nurse Barbara.
At 8:50 a.m. Dr. S asked to hold her while the nurses were putting my bed back together and cleaning me up. He quietly prayed a blessing over her.
I tried to nurse Eleanor at 9:00 a.m. she didn’t do well on the right at all, but did finally nurse a little on the left breast.
I got some Fentanyl 25 mg in my IV (which totally knocked me out – I felt dizzy for quite a while and wished I’d not had that medicine given – it’s amazing how much it affected me post-labor compared to barely feeling the meds during labor due to the adrenaline rush!) and some ice to my bottom. Bronce looked at Eleanor at one point and said, “Hey Precious, you’re so beautiful.” – I hear him call her this a lot, he’s totally smitten with her!
Here’s a picture of Eleanor and me with Coleen – the most amazing doula ever!!
Bronce brought my parents back at 10:00 a.m. They’re going by Grandee and Papa – and they were so excited to check out their newest granddaughter.
After they left Bronce’s parents and sister, Lauren, came in. They were all thrilled with this new family member. Bronce’s dad gave Eleanor the Pediatrician’s once-over (she passed).
The nurses let us settle in the delivery room for a little while longer until we felt ready to move to the Mother/Baby Wing. Around 11:45am we packed up the room and made the journey! Here we go…