Monday, September 13, 2010

Gabriel's Birth Day, Part I.

39 weeks 5 days
Last picture of me pregnant - picking raspberries on August 29th.

I dreaded coming to work on my due date. I'd already been getting comments about how I should be having my baby or be at home with my baby or WHY HAVEN'T I HAD THAT BABY YET?! I knew it would only hurt my soul to hear the comments on my actual due date.

(My due date according to the midwives was September 1st, but my 20-week ultrasound moved it to August 31st, which is what I stuck with since it's also Mike's birthday.)

I had a meeting after school on Monday, August 30th. The woman who would be subbing for me during my maternity leave came to the meeting. Afterward, we talked about when I thought I'd go into labor. I told her what I kept telling everyone, "I have no idea when I'll go into labor. I don't feel like it will be soon, but who knows?"

She told me, "You have to be a lot more miserable than you are now. You have to be so miserable and uncomfortable that you completely stop fearing labor and just want the baby out."

Little did we know, I'd be in labor less than twelve hours later.

I had a tiny feeling that something might be up, since I'd been having some light cramping all day long - it was different than the Braxton Hicks, it was more like really mild menstrual camps. I dismissed it, not wanting to be too anxious or think too much about it. (All along, I'd habored a secret hope that somehow I'd be one of those women who didn't even realize she was in labor until she was 4 or 5 centimeters dilated. I was so not one of those women. Stupid lucky women.)

We went to bed around eleven that night, and at two, I woke up and just knew. The cramping was still there, as was the need to, ahem, use the bathroom quite often. (Another sign of early labor.) I stayed awake for a little while, trying not to focus on the light contractions, knowing that they'd get worse and I shouldn't waste my energy now. I even took a children's Benadryl in hopes that it would help me get some sleep so I'd have energy. I thought of my mom, who had told me that her hardest labors were the ones that started in the middle of the night, since then she'd have less stamina to labor.

I didn't have much luck sleeping - and around five, I decided to just get up for the day.

The details are fuzzy (as they are for most of labor), I know I started timing my contractions at some point (online, of course. Oh, how I love the internet). They were far apart (seven minutes?), only thirty seconds long, but hurt badly enough that I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through them. I cleaned the kitchen - putting away all the dishes in the dishwasher, wiping the counters, and thinking about how the next time we'd come home, we'd appreciate having a clean kitchen. I'd stop washing dishes during a contraction and just bend over the sink, humming softly. (I still feel a bit cheated that I never got the burst of energetic nesting that some women get. I spent the evening before cooking meals for the week, and the morning cleaning the kitchen - but that's about it. No crazy cleaning sprees for me. Sadly.) 

Around six, I laid back down and Mike woke up a bit. I wished him a happy birthday and told him I was most likely in labor. He got excited and told me to rest if I could.  I couldn't, so I got up and took a bath, finding some relief in the warm water.

I grabbed one of my childbirth books to read in the tub, hoping to take advantage of some last minute studying. I quickly abandoned that idea - just getting through the contractions required my full attention. I sat in the tub with my legs crossed, and laid my head on the edge of the bathtub. It was already harder than I'd imagined - and fleeting moments of fear crossed my mind. If this is hard, how will I keep going? I know it will only get harder.

During all of this, I still though that perhaps it was false labor. I had a hunch it was not, since they were not going away, no matter if I was lying in bed, walking around, or sitting on my giant exercise ball. I hesitated calling work to tell them I wouldn't be in that day, because I was afraid it would turn out not be It. How embarrassing would it be to show up the next after the entire school had been told that I was in labor? I called around 8:30 to tell them, afraid that I'd get hit with a contraction during the conversation and be unable to talk. Thankfully, the contractions held off until just after I hung up.

We watched Friends to pass the time. When I had a contraction, Mike would pause the DVD, because any noise during my contractions distracted and annoyed me. I leaned into Mike, softly groaning during the contractions. At ten, I was hungry, so Mike fixed me the most amazing grilled cheese I'd ever tasted. I drank plenty of Gatorade, hoping to keep myself hydrated.

The rest of the morning was spent taking another bath and walking across the street to the drugstore to get some last minute things (orange juice for post-birth and candy for the nurses). At this point, I was still self-conscious about going through a contraction in public - since I was sort of groaning and leaning on Mike during them. So Mike and I found an empty aisle when I experienced two contractions at the store. During contractions, I was still aware of what was happening around me, but couldn't really be bothered to pay attention to anything but getting through the contraction.

After we left the drugstore, we went for a walk around the block, stopping often for my contractions. I knew that keeping active during labor was the best way to keep it going. During all of this, Mike kept track of the contractions with an app on his iPod. (Again, oh, how I love technology!)  He'd talk me through the contractions, reminding me to breathe deeply and relax myself as much as I could. He did a lot of encouraging, which was so wonderful and helpful. When he said, "I'm so proud of you. You're doing great. I love you," I felt like I could do it.

We got back to our apartment, and that's when the throwing up started. Ugh. I couldn't keep any liquids down from about noon until I went into transition. It was absolutely awful. We called the midwives a bit after noon and the midwife on call told us to come in to their office (which is across the street from the hospital) to be checked.

I did tons of research when I was about eight weeks pregnant to find the best place to give birth in the area (based on what I was looking for) and found a birthing center a hospital that had a midwife practice associated with it. At the time, the hospital 35 minutes from our house, but since moving farther south, it was anywhere from 45-60 minutes from our apartment. I hesitated to stick with my plans to birth at the hospital, since I wasn't sure how difficult traveling that far during labor would be. But, it's mission and philosophy are just so fabulous, I couldn't bring myself to go to a closer hospital. (Spoiler: turned out to be a very good decision!)

What did I love about the birthing center at this particular hospital? They offer only rooming-in, they have lactation consultants on staff that visit every patient every day, they offer a free follow-up appointment with a lactation consultant, they are a baby-friendly hospital (their nurses are all labor and baby nurses), they have a lower c-section rate, they have a birthing tub for water birth, and they support natural childbirth. Plus, it's small - only eight rooms! I seriously have such warm fuzzy feelings about the hospital. So friendly and cozy. Mmm.

But, I'm getting off track. More about that later.

We got ready for our drive - Mike had already loaded up the car with our things, so he helped me out to the car. Thankfully, no one else was in the elevator or lobby. I kept telling Mike how terrified I was of having contractions in the car. I was sitting, standing, lying down, and walking around at home - dealing with contractions while strapped into a moving vehicle scared me. Let alone the idea of getting sick in the car. (I have a life-long fear of throwing up in the car. I'm not sure why. But I am happy to say that it still remains an unexperienced fear.)

The ride to the hospital was much easier than I anticipated. It was quick, since it was midday, and the contractions were tough, but still manageable. Mike felt terrible not being able to support me through them, though. We got to the midwives' office just before 2:30pm. I told myself I'd only be disappointed if I was less than three centimeters dilated. In fact, I also told Mike that this kid would be an only child if this wasn't the real thing. Because, it hurt. A lot.

Mike told me he thought maybe I was in transition. I hoped so, because that would mean I'd managed to get through much of labor already. However, I didn't get my hopes up. I mentally braced myself for many more hours of labor...

[Part II]
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