8/9/10 The Birth
Whitney’s Down syndrome was not a delivery room surprise. We found out late in the 2nd trimester. I wanted the delivery to be as normal and natural as possible, Down syndrome or not, birth is birth. Monday morning, and the room was buzzing with medical staff in anticipation. Buzzing because baby has Down syndrome and a known heart condition, and buzzing because Mama was only there 21 minutes before baby arrived. Oops. My whole labor I downplayed everything trying to prepare myself for the long-haul…only in hindsight I think I Whitney wanted to come a lot sooner than she did but this rookie mom didn’t trust herself to follow her instincts. And I fooled everyone. I did labor with zen-like focus trying to escape somewhere in my brain while baby was taking over on an escape of her own. We didn’t know she was a she. We knew a lot about her, but thought the gender would be a happy surprise. And it didn’t seem to matter much anyway, it was a minute or two after she arrived before someone said “well, what is it?!” and we made the discovery and announcement.
Let me back up.
Contractions came at church the day before. It was fascinating at first. We carried on the day with a nap and out to a movie as if pretending to be “normal”…it was like labor was our little secret the world around us wasn’t aware of. I would squeeze Tyler’s hand to share each contraction with him. I ate a giant Chipotle salad and we putzed around charging up the cameras and updating facebook statuses before tucking in for the night at 10 or 11pm, with plans of sleeping through as much labor as I could.
It wasn’t so fascinating at midnight when I realized contractions came like pestering hiccups where it always feels like the next one is about to start again, and sleep was not going to happen. The contractions didn’t really hurt so I lay there watching time tick on our projection clock. Tyler was fast asleep and I wanted him to rest up. I thought about calling the Doula and realized I would possibly have the baby in the middle of the night and I felt bad about waking everyone up in the wee hours – especially if the baby would take a long time to come (what if I misjudged?) so I determined to try to make it to 5am before bugging anyone…5am would be reasonable. I calculated in my head that I was having contractions about every 5 minutes and I had 5 hours to endure so I would have to do 60 or so contractions before calling the Doula. That seemed doable. So I started counting down contractions like beers on the wall and prayed for strength and endurance. Silly me. Soon I realized contractions are not what I thought they would be. The athlete in me expected to push my body as if I was running sprint intervals. It doesn’t work like that. Instead, I felt pain/cramp/major discomfort thrust upon me, and it was difficult to find a position or a posture to even slightly ease the pain. I tried breathing, shifting from back to side, distraction…nothing really worked, and by 1:30am I was extremely uncomfortable and frustrated.
I got up and tried walking/sitting on the ball and again nothing had a satisfactory effect except that the more things I thought to try, the more time I could distract myself and make time pass. I finally crawled back into bed and woke up Tyler – not knowing what else to do. He was very sleepy. Tyler was our touch point with our Doula (birth coach). He asked if I needed the her now and I said no, I didn’t want to call her in the middle of the night and I wanted to succeed on my own for at least a little bit before calling in the reinforcements. At the same time I felt a little desperate already that I couldn’t sleep and no position seemed to help. He timed contractions for me and I think they were a minute long and 4 or 5 minutes apart.
We decided to watch a movie – some chick flick. I rested and felt like I could relax better and actually would sleep for a few minutes at a time in between contractions…the contractions became more bearable. Throughout the movie and after, Tyler would try to touch me with massage, gentle comfort or even by accident. I insisted he keep his hands to himself….even a light touch on my arm seemed to add to the pain of my whole body. Poor guy, I really wanted him to help but couldn’t figure out how to include him in such a personally miserable experience.
The movie ended around 3:30am and I decided to try to crawl back in bed for some more sleep – very quickly I realized it was not going to happen.
I lay down and listened to a playlist we had made for labor – was this supposed to help? I tried really hard to let it distract me, pray, think about other things and ignore the full-core wrenching going on but I couldn’t. I would alternate from laying on my side to getting up and leaning over the bed, to sitting on the toilet to sitting on the ball to pacing the hallway. After the movie Tyler texted the Doula saying I was having trouble coping with pain, I thought I could be okay without her still for a while, she called and listened to me speak coherently and rather normally and encouraged rest and relaxing.
Tyler texted/called again at maybe 5 or 6am and she talked to him, wishing for me that I had gotten rest for the long day ahead of me. I kept wondering how far along I might be and trying to prepare myself for the worst but the pain was pretty bad and I started wondering if I could endure. I kept saying “this is so dumb” – meaning “I can’t believe I have to do this” and “whose idea was this anyway – why is this the way to get babies out?!” I thought relief (meds) would be nice but dreaded being in the hospital for fear of being strapped down in the bed or coaxed into unnecessary interventions. I finally told Tyler I wanted the Doula to come help because I felt at my wits end. I wanted help relieving pain and I wanted permission to use the shower – I remember hearing in birthing class that the shower is a natural epidural, but that if you use it too early it might slow things down or be ineffective during later contractions when it is more needed.
The Doula instructed Tyler to feed me some protein to help me last. I had been forcing down sips of water all along but definitely was not interested in eating. I could smell Tyler cooking with oil downstairs and yelled to ask what he was doing (since I was “dying” and beside myself) – he explained and I remember being annoyed that he was leaving me alone (even though I didn’t know what to do with him when he was there – I would only just complain “this is dumb” and say that it hurt or be silent while he sat there helpless – and of course NOT touching me). I also told him the thought of food made me nauseated. He brought up a fried egg and begged me to eat some, after much resistance I tasted it (the tiniest bit) and shortly afterward threw it up along with all the water in my stomach.
At that point I was scared. I remembered hearing that throwing up was one sign of being far along. I wondered how far along I was – hoping it was almost over but not letting myself really think I was close because I was too scared I wouldn’t be able to endure much longer if I guessed wrong. “Where’s the Doula!?!” I was beginning to get angry and panic because I needed her and I wanted relief and to try the shower.
Finally I yelled to Tyler that I couldn’t wait any longer to get in the shower (he was downstairs making food or cleaning up?) I got my swimsuit on so I wouldn’t be naked for the Doula and jumped in. Ugh! It did not feel good. I was determined to get relief from “my epidural” but instead I cringed at the hot water and felt my body start to push/grunt through the contractions…it was the worst feeling ever and very scary. My lower parts felt fully flexed and bulging but I tried with all my might to stop pushing and relax. The noise that came out of my mouth was something I’ve never heard before…like a dinosaur screech. I was pushing but trying to stop from pushing. I yelled to Tyler in fright that I was pushing and my body was trying to have the baby in the shower. He came running. I got out of the shower, wrapped in a towel and lay on the bed trying to relax. I kept asking “Where’s the Doula?” and lay there almost acting like I was dead, trying not to move because everything was uncomfortable. I still was resisting the push/grunt with every contraction. Tyler called to ask where she was and she said she was on her way (just left…probably an hour after we asked her to come…supposedly she was stalling because she thought I was not far along because I sounded so normal when I talked to her) she asked some questions and to talk to me and I remember being able to talk fine but being short with her and very quiet/focused. Tyler told her I had thrown up and sensed her alarm, realizing I was farther along than she thought.
She arrived and said she would massage me with her lavender oil. I warned her that I really didn’t want to be touched but also conceded to let her try. She massaged while I was on my side and it was somewhat tolerable – at least a good distraction.
Throughout the morning we had realized I was getting a “bonus” 30 sec. contraction in-between my other regular strongest contraction which we remembered to be an indication that the baby was probably turned funny. The Doula rocked my body to try to help the baby turn into proper position. I was miserable and in between contractions said “Really… really? What is this?” and she humored me and said “you’re so close! You’re going to meet your baby soon!” I remember thinking that meeting the baby was inconsequential to me at that point, I just wanted it to be over with. I also was getting stressed about going to the hospital but the Doula insisted it was not time yet, but soon. During one contraction while lying on my bed completely flexed and trying to keep my body from pushing I lost control of my bladder – mortified. It scared me how out of control I felt. After maybe 20-30 minutes of massage I begged for relief and she said we should get in the shower, I told her it didn’t help but went along with it anyway. She was directing Tyler this way and that to get the ball and put it in the tub, and then to start collecting clothes for me to wear (oops! guess it never occurred to me to consider an outfit for my grand hospital entrance, what do you wear when you don’t want anything touching your body?)
Before getting in the shower, while lying there with the massage oils I heard my parents arrive. I was surprised and somewhat alarmed that I heard my dad because I felt embarrassed and indecent. I was relieved to hear my mom. We had texted her and a few others early that morning that it was coming and then forgot to update her. I guess later she said she just felt it was time that she come over and she dragged my dad out the door. She came up and leaned over me and said something encouraging and somehow I knew she’d make sure everything was okay. I was glad she got to see me in labor, even though I was also so vulnerable and embarrassed.
In the shower I sat on the ball and the Doula continued to massage and sprayed water on my back. I tried to relax instead of push with each contraction. She told me to moan and breathe low and I felt really dumb, but desperate enough to try it and kept doing it. All of a sudden I felt a pop underneath me and realized my water broke. It was maybe 5-10 minutes more (I remember hearing or at least thinking that my mom was starting to stress about getting me to the hospital). When I got out of the shower and changed out of my swimsuit the Doula noted that the baby and I both had pooped – there was meconium (again, mortified). I threw a towel around my waist and a black wrap around my bikini top and we loaded into cars. To my relief, the Doula rode with us and insisted that I would not have the baby in the car. Was that a little stress/anxiety in her voice? By the time we got in the car I felt relief that we were on our way. I knew I was almost done, it felt easier to relax and manage the contractions and urge to push. I remember marveling at the beautiful morning and seeing my neighbor, Bob, out in his yard totally unaware that I was about to have a baby. I wondered if people we passed on the road noticed I was in labor. I closed my eyes most of the trip. We got stuck at all the lights and Tyler was stressing out, the Doula hinted that maybe he should run the light but we didn’t.
It was about 10:15am? Luckily past traffic time. We arrived at Good Samaritan pulling up to the emergency drop off where I was swept up into a wheel chair. My parents parked our car and I remember worrying that my mom wouldn’t make it to the room in time. She was on camera duty. I was embarrassed and closed my eyes to “hide” and also to focus on relaxing. It was very much like the movies…I was pushed quickly down the halls and into a room. Nurses swarmed in and did all sorts of monitoring. I found out Tyler had to go do some paperwork to check me in and the registration people were taking their time. With a little bit of panic they finally realized the urgency and he got back to the room. The Doula was with me, talking to me the whole time.
The nurses wanted to put me on an IV, something about the baby needing it, and I remember being fine with whatever they wanted to do (totally apathetic) but also thinking “of course…” that it went along with my hospital “intervention-obsession” conspiracy theory. Our midwife arrived shortly after we did. After the few tests when I got in the room I remember feeling like I could ignore the contractions rather well…I was nervous and reluctant to push because I was scared of the pain and of tearing or getting exhausted.
I started to push probably right as the midwife showed up (but we weren’t going to wait for her). I remember Tyler and the Doula washing their hands and Tyler came near me at the top of the bed and held my hand. I looked at him, miserable, he was crying (helpless to help me). I very much was glad for him to be there and felt great love. I got on hands and knees to push twice, I could feel the expansion/stretching but was conflicted, preparing to give it my all, but also holding back out of fear. They moved me to my back and I held my leg up for some reason (maybe the midwife was more comfortable catching that way?) I remember the Doula whispering close to me that I needed to take a deep breath and push with all my might. Ok. Fine. After the first or second push they exclaimed that they could see hair and I reached down and felt the hair/head and realized it was not a part of me – that I had no nerves to feel what I was touching. It was maybe another push or two and baby was out. I definitely felt a burning and afterward relief but also some regret that I pushed so hard that I tore. I remember sort of freezing the lower half of my body awkwardly pretty much all the way through being stitched up (which took forever and hurt so much I kept asking if I was anesthetized).
We had written a birth plan (but never showed it to anyone…no time!) but part of it was that Tyler would help “catch” the baby, and this did happen. I love it that his strong and loving hands are one of the first things she touched in this world. They put the baby right in my arms while still attached. I laughed, thinking it was crazy that this living thing came out…she squirmed and was a little funky-colored. I noticed the features of Down syndrome right away but was not surprised or disappointed, it was just that.
Welcome, Whitney Laurel. She was born on Monday, 8/9/10 at 11:09am.
We tried to nurse and she seemed to latch. Fairly quickly they wanted to take her and warm her and do vitals. There were tons of people in the room, many congratulated me/us, and commented on how strong I was. I had checked in about 21 minutes before baby came and had pushed for about 9 minutes…it was pretty quick.
I tried nursing again and it seemed to work again (except not like I had much coming out). And then they explained Whitney needed to go to the NICU to be tested/monitored on a few things – slightly low temperature and low blood-oxygen level. I was disappointed (and skeptical) but also okay with it “whatever needs to happen.” Tyler went with them, my mom went to tell the family in the waiting room, and the Doula had left. I found myself strangely alone, but relieved for some peace.
I was discharged two days after birth, but not Whitney. We all-but lived in the NICU all that next week…coming home just to sleep. Each time we went we were enraptured by our little girl and couldn’t stop taking photos and video of all her expressions. It didn’t take long for my Mama Bear to kick in and I developed a conspiracy theory that the nurses were never going to let her come home with us. We kept thinking we were close to discharge and would then hear “a few more days.” Some nurses would say she was doing great and others were more concerned about one thing or another (at time contradicting each other). It was really a difficult time. We were so much at the mercy of others. Visits from friends and family (even some of the in-laws, who came from out of state!) kept us going. Finally, on the 8th day, we took our Whitney home.
And we had her first parade.
Birth is no doubt a bizarre and crazy experience. But in the end, we are happy with how the birth went. We certainly learned a lot about labor and delivery, and chose to go the same route (Natural, Home Labor, Doula, Midwife, Hospital) for Dylan’s birth 14 months later, just with a lot more knowledge about how I do labor…but that’s another story.