Today, I am thankful to have this story to share. A happy story of an uneventful pregnancy and a live birth. I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have this story. Please know that this community marked by infertility and loss weighs heavy on my heart. You are in my prayers daily. I hope you experience God’s love, peace, and healing today.
For Keiko: The Birth of Little K
I had an easy pregnancy, almost embarrassingly so, and continued to receive care from my OB/GYN. He was very thorough and was up for me asking as many questions as I could think of. He didn’t mind delving into technical explanations when I asked for them, although his tendency to indulge his patients did lead to him running at least an hour behind on appointments.
Little K was due just after the New Year. I finally started getting uncomfortable in December and began walking about a mile each day during my lunch break in hopes of encouraging labor. I also asked my doctor to strip my membranes during my last two appointments, which didn’t hurt and resulted in some light spotting after.
I thought that my water broke early morning on Christmas Day and we headed to the hospital, only to be sent back home a few hours later. I woke up at 6:30 AM the next day with a contraction and bloody show. I went back to bed for almost an hour and woke up with another contraction. They became closer and closer together over the next four hours. We took that time to call parents, shower, have a bite to eat. We finally headed to the hospital when the contractions were five minutes apart, around 12:30 PM. By the time we got to the hospital, I was contracting every three minutes. It took longer to get through triage in Labor and Delivery than we expected and I spent about 20 minutes contracting in the L&D lobby. I was taken into a triage room for another 30 minutes for ferning, IV, monitoring, etc. I was admitted and given a room by 2:00 PM.
I *finally* received my walking epidural at 2:30 PM and was able to relax. By that time, both sets of soon-to-be grandparents had arrived as well as my younger sister. The epidural made me itchy, which I tried to hide from the nurses for fear that they would take the epidural away. They caught on shortly after and administered something like Benadryl, which cleared up the itchiness and made me tired.
I originally wanted to be walking around to help speed labor but the Benadryl made that impossible. Instead, I had my mother and husband position me cross-legged to open my pelvis and reclined my bed to about 45* to keep pressure on my cervix, then dozed for the next several hours while the contractions did their thing. Every once in a while a nurse would come in to check my progress. After three hours, the walking epidural was no longer cutting it and they upped me to the regular epidural. I continued to doze for another hour or two. It was particularly wonderful because the conversation swirled around me, allowing me to join in when I was awake but not feeling like I had to host or entertain anyone.
I believe at some point they administered pitocin, but can’t be sure. I was so happy dozing in and out of labor! I remember being woken up by my FIL, asking if I was okay. I responded that I was and asked why. He showed me that I had four contractions on the screen, all within the past five minutes. Man, I loved that epidural!
It seemed like the hospital staff was one step ahead of me throughout the day. In particular, I remember them coming in around 8:00 PM, asking if I was feeling any increased pressure around my bottom. I responded that I did not. Minutes after she left the room, I began feeling incredible pressure and buzzed her back in. She did an internal exam and confirmed that we were in the home stretch – just half a centimeter to go. (I am now wondering if I had slipped into “the zone” and if her interruption caused me to become more aware of what was happening. I guess we’ll never know.)
The next 45 minutes were the most intense. Even with the epidural, the contractions for that last bit were very fast and very painful, coming less than a minute apart and lasting for about 45 seconds each. That was the time when it was most helpful to have people with me. I had my mother on one side, my husband on the other, and my sister feeding me ice chips. The three of them were wonderful, especially my mom.
At 9:00 PM, the nurse confirmed that we were at ten. We asked for the extended family to leave the room and spent the next hour and forty-six minutes pushing. I was not productive at all for the first half, pushing with my abdomen (like I did in karate) instead of my groin. I spent the time between those efforts crying and apologizing to my husband for not doing it right. The nurse got a little exasperated and kept reinforcing that I needed to push with my butt. I finally caught on to the right way to push and things began to speed up. I intensely remember feeling Little K’s head moving down the birth canal during a push and then feeling her move! Back! Up! When the push was over. That REALLY got me fired up and she was born about 30 minutes later.
Little K was placed on my stomach immediately after birth but then had a bowel movement right away. They whisked her over to a corner to be cleaned, wiped down my stomach, and stitched me up. I was very agitated that they took her away and kept asking for them to bring her back. They took about ten minutes to clean her, do footprints, apgar scores, etc. We cuddled her for a few minutes then tried nursing. The family came back in once everything was right and tight again, probably about 25 minutes after her birth.
We said goodnight to everyone around midnight and were taken up to a room on the maternity floor. I ate the meal my father picked up for me earlier in the day and went to sleep. We tried rooming in and I had to buzz the nurse in the middle night because Little K was crying and I couldn’t find my glasses or a light switch to see her. The nurses were good to us, bringing me meds and ice packs on a regular schedule. They would come in periodically to check up on us and Little K. They did take her to the nursery once or twice and I think they gave her a bottle while she was in there.
I really wanted to breastfeed and we had a pretty good latch right away. The lactation consultant came in and I (stupidly) told her we were nursing well and she left. We didn’t find out until several days later that my milk hadn’t come in yet; Little K was losing weight and becoming jaundiced. Sleepless night with a crying (hungry) baby and blood tests at the hospital confirmed it. We began supplementing with formula, nursing and then giving a bottle after to fill her tummy.
It wasn’t until ten days after birth that my milk came in full force. By that time I had already sunk into PPD and moved in with my parents for two weeks, unable to do more than attempt to nurse Little K and cry. My mom was, once again, completely amazing. She took care of me and of Little K, involving me every step of the way. Without even discussing it, she knew to ask me what I thought we should do and I, without feeling bad, was able to say “I can’t make that decision”, allowing her to do whatever she thought was right. After a while I was able to respond with a decision, and she would do that. She slowly weaned us off of her support and, when I was able to make decisions without asking her first, we headed back home.
I still struggled with PPD for almost ten weeks. I would pack up Little K and myself and go to her house within an hour or two of waking each day, only heading home when it was time to go back to bed at night. I slowly got better and went back to work. Little K had a difficult infancy, to the point where I don’t have many memories of that first year. I do, however, remember the sweet relief of learning how to nurse her lying down as I slept. It was a miracle! I became a confirmed co-sleeper and nursed her this way throughout the night for her first year. Being able to sleep is what really began to pull me out of my PPD.
Looking back, I think Little K’s birth experience was exactly what I expected. An easy pregnancy, a relatively uneventful labor, a healthy birth. I would do several things differently during those first days, weeks, and months, but not her birth or the hours immediately after. I was glad for the medical professionals and the epidural. We were in the top children’s hospital in the state, so I knew we were in good hands. The staff intervened just enough to make us feel cared for but not imposing. They never once mentioned a c-section while I had trouble learning to push and they didn’t pressure us to try formula over breastfeeding.