My friend Carol asked me for The Labor Story, and she made the point that I should keep a copy of it, so I don't forget the details.
I'm going to warn you, I was in labor for 30 hours with Brennan, so this is going to be long and detailed. If you are prone to getting grossed out easily, consider yourself warned. Get comfy...
My water broke at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 19, but I didn't know it at the time. There was no "gush" like in the movies; I just had a "leaky" feeling. I went to the bathroom and noticed a bit of spotting. Although I had had an internal exam at my NST/postdate appointment that previous morning, I had never spotted after one before, so I woke up Nich. We called the OB on call (Dr. Cutler), and as I suspected he said that I was probably just spotting from the exam on Friday morning and to not worry. So we went back to bed. A few minutes after settling back down, I felt that "leaky" feeling again and returned to the bathroom. This time, not only was there a lot of fluid when I sat down, there was dark, almost fibrous, material. I knew something was not right, so we called the doctor again. He told us to come on down to the hospital. We grabbed our bags, let my mom know what was going on, told her we would have a friend pick her up if it was the real thing, and headed to the hospital at 4:00 a.m.
It was PACKED in the maternity wing. All the nurses were saying it was because of the snow and the full moon. "Double whammy" is what they were calling it. There were actually no rooms available on the labor/delivery hall, so we were put in a tiny little room with no closet on the recovery hall while I was checked out. All my vitals looked good, and when the nurse (Marilyn) took my history, she said, "Oh, this will be so easy! You're the perfect pregnant mom!" Unfortunately, upon an internal exam, we discovered that the baby had passed meconium, so I was immediately hooked up to an IV with saline solution and penicillin to ward off infection. Yuck and double yuck. Penicillin BURNS in an IV, by the way. The good part was that I had dilated another 3 cm from the 1 cm I had been hovering at for three weeks - hurray! We called a friend later in the morning, and she brought my mom to the hospital.
Nine hours later, NOTHING had progressed, other than getting moved to a nice, big room on the labor/delivery side. We'd walked the halls as much as they would let me (which they were limiting, because they had to keep an eye on the baby's vitals due to the meconium passing). The tub was no longer an option, since I had the IV. Because I wasn't progressing at all, they hooked me up to Pitocin (oxytocin) through my IV to "get things moving." At this point, we sent my mom back home, since Dr. Cutler had said it could be 12-14 hours before anything happened, and we didn't see the sense in all of us waiting around overnight. I was also not in any mood to be translating for my mom every time the doctor or nurses came in.
Six hours of increasingly painful contractions later, the doctor checked, and you got it. NOTHING had progressed. I had held up pretty well up to this point, thanks to a very supportive husband who let me squeeze his hand through each contraction as I needed, rubbed my shoulders and back, supported me when I wanted to stand up, etc. (Although, I have to admit, part of what motivated me to endure the pain quietly was because the girl next door to me was a screaming, swearing banshee, and I did NOT want other people on the floor to hear me doing what she was). The doctor mentioned the possibility of a Cesarean because it had been a while, and I was obviously getting exhausted. He asked me to consider an epidural (I had initially said that I didn't want any drugs, which was already a bit of a laugh, since I had three different things dripping into me through the IV). He also made the point that if I had to have a Cesarean, I'd have to have an epidural anyway. Once he left the room, I let myself have a little cry. It's one thing to deal with horrible pain knowing that there is a purpose to it. When I learned that I had been enduring hours of painful contractions to no visible end, it added to the frustration of being attached to all these bags of medication through the IV, not being able to have the pain management I had wanted, having to consider surgery, etc.
Nich and I talked about it, and I agreed to the epidural. Dr. Cutler said that even if I could get to 5 cm in a few hours, it would be a good sign. It was the best decision I could have made. The anesthesiologist (Dr. Taylor) came pretty quickly after we had let the nurse know (at this point, we'd had Paula and then Marilyn had come back for another shift - for the length of time we were there, we went through several nurse rotations). Nich had to leave for this part, which was a little scary for me, because I'm sort of a wuss about expected pain. Once I'm in it, I can deal, but the "knowing that it's coming" part freaks me out. Anyway, I jumped a little at the local anesthetic, and because I was already tired and worn out, when he had to re-try the epidural needle, I cried ... again. Dr. Taylor did have to come back to adjust the catheter, because I had a section on my left lower abdomen that was still feeling the contractions very intensely, but once it was all adjusted, I was able to relax enough to fall asleep. I slept on and off through Saturday night (from about 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.), waking up whenever my blood pressure cuff would squeeze, when the nurse (Paula again) would come in to take my vitals, or when the girl next door would go off on another one of her special moments. Nich, however, got a pretty good night's rest on the very comfy recliner in the room (he had ear plugs in), which was great, because I needed him later.
When Dr. Cutler came to check me at 4:00 a.m., I had dilated to 7 cm and was 80% effaced! Woohoo! I started pushing around 6 a.m. when I was at 9 cm and 100%. The baby wasn't letting me off the hook, though. After two and a half hours of pushing four times per contraction, I was thoroughly exhausted. I said to Nich that I just didn't think I could push any more and that I just wanted to go to sleep. Our nurse at the time, Paula, and Nich were both being very encouraging, as was Dr. Cutler whenever he came to check on me. It gave me extra strength to hear them saying things like, "She's doing great. She's a motivated pusher. This is going to happen!"
There were so many women in labor that Dr. Cutler was in and out of the room. Women who had arrived long after I had delivered their babies and were sent over to recovery. Paula was also in and out, delivering updates to Dr. Cutler, so at times, Nich was the only support I had while pushing through contractions. I was frustrated, worn out, and tired of my legs feeling like tree trunks, and it was around this time that when Nich said, "Can you give it just a little bit more, honey? He's right there!" I opened my eyes, looked at him, and said, "Do you WANT a bloody nose?" It was the worst thing I think I said to him through the entire labor, so all things considered (and having heard some of the things the girl next door was hollering), he said it wasn't that bad. :~)
Eventually, the baby's head had progressed far enough that Dr. Cutler came to help things along. He performed an episiotomy, and as I pushed, he pulled with a vacuum. I had opted not to have a mirror, but Nich said that it was so strange to watch our little baby's head being "domed" by the suction of the vacuum.
Within fifteen minutes, Brennan Lucas came into the world at 9:09 a.m. on Sunday, February 20, 2011. He was 9 pounds and 5 ounces (the doctor said we could call it 9.5 pounds, since if Brennan hadn't passed the meconium in utero, he probably would have weighed more than that!) and 21 inches long. His head circumference was a whopping 33 cm; no wonder I was having a hard time getting him out by myself!
Because of the meconium, they couldn't give the baby to me right away, so after they cleaned him up and took all his stats, Brennan got to meet Daddy while I was being stitched and cleaned up. Our little family was left alone for the "Golden Hour" to get to know one another. Once the crowd dispersed from the delivery room, I got the shakes very badly and just couldn't get rid of them. I'd had them during labor a bit, but this time, my teeth were chattering so much, and I had no control over it. They turned on the heat, piled blankets on me, but I just could not stop shivering. I thought maybe my blood sugar was low (since I hadn't eaten in close to 40 hours), so I asked for some juice. The nurse (Amy now) ordered me some breakfast and told me I really had to eat something, because they had to help me get up and use the bathroom before taking me to a recovery room. Unfortunately, the combination of fatigue, sudden sugar from the juice, and being forced to eat when all I wanted to do was pass out must have been too much for my system, because half an hour later, I was throwing up everything, including the Tylenol with codeine that I had been given for the episiotomy. It made a huge mess all over me, the bed, and the floor around the bed. The poor nurse who was helping Amy (she had just started in the unit) apparently later asked Amy if this was "how it always is."
Anyway, I got cleaned up, and since I looked "terribly pale" and out of it, Amy didn't want to risk me trying to stand up. For the first time in my life (there were a lot of firsts over this weekend!), I had to try to use a bed pan. (It didn't work.) They decided to keep us in the delivery room, so after taking my vitals, they finally let me sleep. Brennan was getting his first bath, and Nich was helping move things around so the housekeeper could clean and sanitize the room for us, and by the time they both returned, I was awake again and feeling so much better.
We enjoyed the remainder of our hospital stay. All the doctors, nurses, and staff were very nice and incredibly helpful. We had a small handful of visitors on Monday, because we intentionally held off on publicizing about Brennan until late Sunday evening. Brennan latched on like a champ, and he tolerated all the poking and prodding of vaccinations, an ultrasound (a follow up to the enlarged kidney they had seen at my third ultrasound), and circumcision pretty well. At one point, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and then I walked to the nursery window (just across the hall from our room, conveniently enough) to peek at Brennan. All the babies are taken to the nursery around midnight to get checked out, so they were all lying in a row in their little plastic bassinets. I had to laugh, because Brennan was easily recognizable among the bunch, being a good bit larger than all the other babies in there.
Some other fun facts from the hospital:
- My dad got to "meet" Brennan via Skype while we were still at the hospital.
- Nich brought me glazed donuts that first night because I had been having all sorts of crazy cravings during labor (I guess I had to make up for not having any cravings during pregnancy, and plus, by the end of it, I hadn't eaten for almost forty hours!)
- I was shocked to discover that I had cankles (I'm not sure if those were from the IVs or the epidural, but it took several days after being home for my legs to look normal again).
We were released to come home late Tuesday morning. We're all doing very well. I'm a bit sore from the stitches, obviously, but Nich has been so supportive and immensely helpful. Meals and visits have been/are coming from friends from church, I've been able to shower and put on make up every day (the little things help!), and in general, all is well in the Guillory household. :~) Brennan is such a joy to us already, and we are loving learning about being his parents. He's a good little napper, eats well, spends a few hours a day pretty alert, and has slept for several hours at a time two nights in a row. We've had two pediatric visits so far. He lost a good bit of weight between birth and the first visit, but he was gaining again by the second one. We see the pediatrician again on Friday. Hopefully, he'll have gained more of his weight back by then!
This was fun to write, and it was good for me to take the time to reflect on the experience. It has been a wonderful first week with our little boy, and I have so enjoyed having Nich home for the entire time, too. It was sad to see him go to work this morning, and I very much look forward to his homecoming tonight.
"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner