so i decided that if it was gonna get said, his first birthday was the most appropriate time to say it.
some of this is a detailed description of the miracle of birth. if you are squeamish, you should read with caution and not yell at me for being honest about the beautiful way my baby came into the world.
there. you’ve been warned. now its on you.
sorry its long, but i implore you to read anyway. in honor of benjamin.
it all began the tuesday after thanksgiving, nov. 29. i was working a day shift (mwah ha ha ha, i'll never have to do crappy weeklies ever again!!!!) and the first thing i did when i got in that day was write my penguin column, because it was late and i wanted to get it out of the way. (and because it was way more fun than working on weeklies.) i was pretty far behind by the early afternoon, and was trying to ignore the strange sensations i was feeling in my abdomen. but the harder i tried to concentrate on work, the more my mind worried about the baby. there was no way it could be labor. it didn’t hurt. and everybody knows that labor really hurts. so i went up to pat, the only woman in the whole newsroom who i knew had given birth at one point in her life, and asked her if she thought i should be concerned about strange menstrual-like cramping. not painful, and not contractions (i'd had plenty of BH practice ones, so i knew how it felt when my uterus got hard and ya know, contracty) just cramps. i was mostly talking to her for some reassurance. i figured she’d say, “oh yeah, that's normal. do your work.”
she said, “well ... you’re probably fine ... but i don’t think you should be asking me. if you just want some quick reassurance, why don’t you call your doctor? i’m sure it won't take that long, and you’ll be able to concentrate a lot better after you know everything is OK.”
that made sense to me, so i called the doctor, left a message with a nurse about my symptoms, left my cell number, and got back to work. in less than five minutes (a world’s record if you knew this doctor) she called to tell me that she’d already called tragic valley to tell them i was coming so i'd better get my butt to the hospital to be evaluated, ASAP.
“what? but i swear i'm not in labor ...”
“go get seen.”
(I was 35 weeks and 2 days pregnant at the time)
so I left all my work undone, and called stephen to come pick me up. i apologized for taking him from work, and said that i thought it was unnecessary, but that we really didn’t have a choice. when we got there, everyone kept acting like i was already 8 centimeters. they got me a wheelchair, and twice i heard people say “she’s in labor” to other people. i kept shouting at anybody and everybody that i really wasn’t, and they kept looking at me, like “oh, the poor dear's in denial”
we get to a room, i pee in a cup for tests, change into horribly cold hospital attire, and get in the bed as they strap a bunch of monitoring equipment on me. i’m annoyed, and remember why it was that i didn’t want to have my baby at this stupid hospital. i think it was at that point, when they’re starting to ask me if we’ve gone to class yet (nope) and if i have a birth plan (yeah, NOT HERE!) and if i’m allergic to anything that i start to think, “oh my god, what if i AM having my baby now?” but i still really didn’t think so, because nothing hurt.
the monitor screen was flat. no contractions. we watch the fairly oddparents on tv. they check on me periodically. still not a single contraction. looking back, i find it weird that no one did an internal exam, but i guess they figured that if there were no contractions, there couldn’t be a baby.
after two hours, they let me go. i was sent home with a list of instructions. i was to be on bed rest until i was 37 weeks, when the baby would be considered term, at which point it would be OK if my actions brought on labor. we learned that menstrual-like cramps were a preterm labor sign, and though i had no other signs, they were being extra careful. i'd had a rough pregnancy, with a 13 pound weight loss in the begining before i was able to stop throwing up and start actually taking in calories.
so i sat on my butt (or actually, layed down) on the couch. we didn’t even have tv, so i borrowed tapes and dvds and watched my whole collection of lois & clark tapes from when i was in junior high. one of the hardest things was fighting off the nesting instinct to clean and make things nice, since i was supossed to be horizontal at all times. it was nice not to be working, but pretty damn boring. i went through a lot of cell phone minutes, calling whoever would talk to me during the day. (this becomes a key point later after the baby is born and we continue to use minutes like crazy and end up with a $600 + cell phone bill that my mom kindly took care of as a baby gift/christmas present)
on saturday, dec. 3, we went to the birthing class in nampa (2 1/2 hours away) and then to a hannukah party in boise. (we were already out there, and it was so nice to do something social. i purchased a mezzuzah for the door of the baby’s room. as we left the party, it was SNOWING!!! we plodded down the freeway for awhile, but after slipping a little, decided that $50 for a hotel room was definitely worth it for the peace of mind. it wasn’t just our lives at stake.
the next morning, we got back home, and i resumed my couch laying position, glad that our little excursion didn’t seem to have triggered early labor.
i had a doctor’s appointment on thursday, dec. 8, in nampa with the birthing center doctor who would be delivering the baby. she did an internal exam, and i was shocked to hear that i was 2 to 2 and a half centimeters, and 50 percent effaced. i guess those pre-term labor signs were the real thing! my baby wasn’t due until jan 1.
“there is no way you're going to make it that long,” she said.
we decided to choose a day to induce, since we would be traveling 2 and a half hours in winter, it was best for it not to be in the middle of the night. and also, that way all my friends and family would know when to be there. one of the coolest thing about the birthing center was that they let you have as many people as you want in attendance at yourbaby's birth. (for the record though, i didn’t know then what i do now about induction, and probably would not choose that option again. but it turns out to be moot anyway. keep reading)
on the car ride home from that appointment, i was having contractions. they were frequent enough to be noticeable and also uncomfortable enough to be noticeable. i don’t remember much of that evening, but by nighttime, i was on yellow alert. i was not able to relax enough to sleep, and my special instructions that i got at tragic valley stated that if i had six contractions in an hour that i needed to call them. I was at about five. but they weren’t that consistant, so sometimes i'd have two or three right in a row, and other times it would be 20 minutes without one.
stephen urged me to get in the bath to help me relax. before i went to bed, i did call the hospital to explain the circumstances, and they said that at 36 weeks and 5 days, they would not try to stop my labor (which is why they tell you to call) so i should just call when my contractions got five minutes apart, consistantly.
amazingly, after that, i did sleep from about 3 a.m. until 10 or 11 a.m. (little did i know that was the last time, up to THIS DAY that I would have that many hours of uninterupted sleep. that's right, the LAST TIME!)
when we got up and got going that day, i was still having contractions, about every 10 minutes or so. (not exactly, it was an average.) so we called back the doctor we’d just seen the day before and worked out a plan. we would drive back to nampa, with all the stuff we needed assuming i was having the baby. i would go the hospital that she also worked out of (the baby was still considered 2 days premature at that point, therefore i wouldn’t be allowed to have him at the birthing center, because they don't do “high-risk” births) if i was in labor, then she would deliver the baby at the hospital, otherwise, we would just hang around town until i had him. she said that it was her professional opinion based on what i was descibing and based on the exam she’d done the day before that i would be having my baby that weekend. but just in case, we asked her if she’d be willing to bring the baby on sunday, if he didn’t come on his own, since all my friends and family would be flying out. she hesitantly agreed. she said the vast majority of 37 week babies are just fine, but that it was still a risk to do that. but she didn’t think it would be needed. it was clear that my baby wanted out.
so i did already have a bag packed for his birth, of course, but it did not include a weekend’s worth of stuff, so we haphazardly threw somemore things together and took off. one of the funnier moments of the weekend was when we realized that i had forgotton SHOES! i wore slippers 24/7 at home because my feet were swollen (and i’ve never like shoes that much anyway) and had put a pair of shoes by the door to grab on our way out. oops. one of the nice things about being very pregnant though, is that few people are looking at your feet, and those who are, tend to understand.
we arrived at the hospital in the early evening and they did a check. exact same as the day before, 2.5 centimeters, but i was now 70 percent effaced. (in case you are reading this but have no idea what all this stuff means, you have to be 4 centimeters to be considered in active labor. the final numbers are 10 and 100. then you’re ready to have a baby.)
they hooked me up to a monitor again, and again, i had no contractions. they were coming every 10 minutes in the car, and getting more intense, so i was pretty sure i was having a baby. even though i wanted to have him at the birthing center on sunday, i was still for some reason kind of disappointed. really, i was embarrassed. the machine was basically implying that i was lying about my contractions. so the girl let me up after awhile, and told me to go walk around in the hallways. just after she got the thing off of me, and i stood up, i had a nasty contraction and called her over.
“feel that?” i said. “that’s a contraction, right? i’m not crazy?”
she said yes it was, and that she knew i wasn't crying wolf cause you can't get to 2.5, 70% without having contractions. she just said that it wasn’t active labor yet. so we walked and i had contractions every ten minute for the next hour, and then she checked me again and i was the same. so we left. we went to the airport to pick up my dad, and he started crying when he saw me. (he hadn’t seen me at all during my pregnancy, at least not since i started to show)
we all went to dinner at denny’s and i ate lightly, cause they say labor is worse with a full stomach, and i didn't know how long until we’d be turning around and heading back to the hospital. we then picked up ellen at the airport, and a surprise megan too! jessi was on their flight, and so for a few minutes, i had my weekend troopers all together. jessi’s parents then picked her up (they live in boise) and my dad went to his hotel. stephen and i stayed with megan and ellen.
megan and i walked the hallways, it was maybe midnight by now, and she timed my contractions. i was down to every eight minutes mostly, but sometimes would still go 15 without one. they needed to be every five before we went back. finally, it was very late, and we went back to the room. she went to sleep, and i tried. i finally got out of the bed and slept on the couch, maybe a few hours. i don’t remember.
we got up early, and i ate some breakfast down in the lobby. our first stop was target. we got shoes for me (megan was most embarrassed about the slipper dillema. it didn’t bother me nearly as much as it did her) and a lot of stuff for the baby. we then met jessi and my dad for lunch at the olive garden. i had lots of breadsticks, and shared pasta with somebody. i think. then we went to the boise mall. we shopped for shoes for my dad too (cause his were like 25 years old, falling apart and butt ugly) and this is when we got the famous penguin coat and bib. they were naked penguins too!
we also got a long rice pack from one of those agressive sales style kiosks. someone draped on my neck while i was walking and it felt really good. after a few hours, my contractions were getting intense, and down to 5 minutes apart. i was hanging on megan and jessi as we walked and a LOT of people kept coming up and asking if i was OK. they would smile and say that i was having a baby, and then some would smile and leave, while others would say things like “oh my god, should i call 911?” it was very funny.
we decided to leave the mall and after we got in the car, megan called the birthing center, asking if they would take me now, (maybe 3:30 p.m.? just assuming the baby would not come before midnight) they told her they couldn’t let me walk in the door before midnight, and that i should cool it with the walking, and try to rest for awhile to see if the contractions died down or kept coming. she warned us NOT to go to the hospital unless we were sure the birth was very imminent, because with contractions 5 minutes apart, they would probably admit me, and not let me leave to the birthing center.
so we went to my dad’s hotel room in nampa (ours was in boise near the airport and mall) and chilled. i took a shower on the advice that it would probably be my last chance to wash my hair in quite awhile. stephen came with me, so that if i had a major contraction he could hold me and i wouldn’t be hurt and alone. when we got out, jessi braided my hair and we ordered chinese food. it was so supremely good. by 9:30 or so, we decided it was time to start walking again. so we went to wal-mart this time, it was close by, and shopped some more. jessi and megan hung on to me while i had contractions, and stephen rubbed my back (OK dug into my muscles as hard as he possibly could and it still only sort of helped.) i got a lot of “you’re doing great” and “we’re so proud of you” sometimes i cried and hugged them, and one time i collapsed almost completely.
by the time it was midnight, i was in so much pain, i was crying and begging them to take me in to the birthing center. the nurse wanted to talk to me on the phone, and she could tell i wasn’t doing well. i was pretty hysterical and not in control of the pain. we went in and she checked me after getting me settled in the bed in my nice water birth room. i was now 90 percent effaced, but stuck at 3 centimeters.
i started crying. “i just want to have my baby” she tried to help me settle down, and made me lie still on the bed for an hour before checking me again. i tried to talk to her and said “i chose this birthing center because i was told that i was much more free to choose how i wanted to labor, and that no one was going to MAKE me lie down if that’s not the way i’m comforatable.” i was hiccuping and sniffling through this speech.
she told me that side-lying was a very good determination of real labor (no monitors at the center) and that if i was really in active labor it would progress me, but if i wasn’t it would slow it down. walking may help you deal with the pain but it also aggrivates contractions.
“well wasn’t that what we wanted? aren’t i here to have a baby?” (still crying) she checks me again after the hour. no change, and though my contractions now hurt me more, they are not as regular, not as often. she sends me home with a box of kleenex for the tears and instructions that the best thing i can do for my baby is sleep. she tells my mother-in-law to go get me tylenol pm. “i can have that?”
“yes. go take some. you NEED to sleep.”
i didn’t get to sleep until 4 a.m. or so, and despite a phone call shortly after that, i was still able to sleep until 7:30 or so. i woke up from a contraction, everyone else was still sleeping. i got up and had some breakfast and then called the doctor (not the nurse at the birthing center) from the hotel hallway. she said she would meet me there at 10 (i think?) and that yes, she would keep her promise to bring the baby today, although she warned me again about 37 week babies.
after that i waited an excruciatingly long time while people showered and packed and megan put her makeup on. we got to the birthing center and dad was already there, as was the nurse, hazel. she said i looked much better today and she wished me luck and also said that she would wait and let the doctor check me. i appreciated that.
when the doctor got there, she did the examination and i was so nervous that i could barely breathe while waiting.
“she’s at 4! a solid four! congratulations, Suzanne. you’re going to have a baby!” i was so proud that i made it to active labor without any intervention. (it became very important to me later to be able to say that i was not induced.) at this point she broke my water and it was warm and wet and a ton of pressure in my abdomen was released and it felt wonderful! i cried and cried and cried and thanked her so much and sqealed “i’m gonna have a baby!!!!” loud enough so that the people who weren’t in the room would know as well.
we called brad and bryna and told them it was going to be today, but not to break land speed records getting there. i was only at 4, and it was like 11 a.m. i then proceeded to call everyone else i’d ever met in my whole life.
“it’s today! it’s today! i’m gonna have a baby!!!!!!!!”
i was way more excieted than when i found out i was pregnant. (not because i didn’t want the baby, but because i was walking on eggshells due to two previous miscarriages.)
somebody brought me a hot cocoa and i bounced on a labor ball for awhile. we all hung out and chatted for an hour or so, with various interuptions for contractions. when they checked me again, i wasn’t progressing as fast as they would like, so they gave me something to help my labor along. it was supposed to help the contractions come closer together but not make them more intense.
after that, i went back out again and we tryed to watch march of the penguins, but it wasn’t long before the medicine really kicked in. i tried laboring on the ball and in various positions, but finally decided it was time to get in the water. my dad had brought some soup, which i tried to drink but it was hot, and i kept not being able to hold it steady through a contraction. jessi, megan and i sang to wilson phillips “hold on” together, and it was possibly the most beautiful, poignant memory of the whole thing.
i was starting to really freak out because though everyone kept telling me i was doing great, i felt like i was falling apart, and the pain was so strong by now. there’s only so much breathing a girl can do, ya know? i was getting dizzy and disoriented and starting to lose hope. even though it techincally hadn’t been long enough since my last check, i begged to be checked again, because i just didn’t think i could keep doing this, at this intensity all the way until 11 p.m. (the doctor had previously said that she would be happy if the baby came by 11)
at that check, they told me i was EIGHT centimeters and in transistion! no wonder i was so messed up! i felt better knowing that i was actually at the worst of it and not faced with hours and hours of it getting worse and worse and worse. the doctor asked me to give a short push, to help ease away the slight lip of cervix that was left. i did and she helped with her finger.
being in the water was nice, because it took a lot of the pressure off, but i tended to flop around a lot when i had contractions, and everybody was so worried i would drown. :-) when she told me it was time to start pushing for real, i was shocked. it was so early, so soon! brad and bryna weren’t even there yet. we’d called them when i hit 8 and said step on it, but even then i didn’t think it could possibly be this soon.
pushing was the hardest part. i wanted to scream, but they kept telling me not to, that i should save my energy and put it into pushing out the baby. she repeated things to me, like “curl around your baby” because i kept throwing my head back, and i guess that’s bad. i kept hearing megan’s voice repeating in my head “i pushed three times with ryland and once with kaela” and i told them i was worried it wasn’t going well. megan took that moment to say “oh, don’t listen to me” which was comic relief for everyone.
overall i think i pushed for 20 minutes, and once his head came out, the doctor pretty much just pulled the rest of him out herself. i did tear, (4 stitches, which is a little embarrassing, considering my baby was just 6 pounds, 4 ounces)
he was born at 4:08 p.m. i never held him. stephen held him briefly, until they realized his breathing wasn’t normal. they worked on him for awhile and then called 911.
i was left with the placenta in me, waiting on a bed for someone to come back for about a half hour to 45 minutes. after stephen and the baby went in the ambulance, the doctor came back and stitched me up. she told me the baby would be OK.
Alright, to any of you who actually read this far, i’m stopping here. not because that’s the end, really, but because you can pick up the rest of it by reading last year’s december entries.
and i guess you can all infer that benjamin michael ended up OK in the end :-)