This is the last installment of The Birth Story but it’s a long one. Thank you for sticking with me!
So, Kylene didn’t feel any cervix and I wasn’t totally clear about what that meant (not to mention the fact that I was in hard labor and was probably not sure what anything meant!) Hubs apparently didn’t get it either as he began wandering around the house getting my hospital bag and trying to find the iPod with my HypnoBirthing CD on it and the music that I want to listen to in the hospital. Kylene finally got his attention by telling him, ‘She’s 10 cm…this baby is coming!’ Ultimately, we left the house with half of what we needed including my test strips but no insulin monitor and my syringes but no insulin.
Side note: The doctor never made it to the delivery when I was born and my brother was born in the front seat of my parents’ car in 1976 in the parking lot of the Red Carpet Motel on Colerain Avenue in Cincinnati. We had asked our doctors a few times whether or not fast labor was hereditary…we were assured that it wasn’t. I think additional studies on that topic might be warranted. <Smile.>
At some point, both Hubs and Kylene realized that there was no way that I was getting back into my clothes. We really didn’t have time to try to figure that out, so they draped my bathrobe across my shoulders and I made my way out of the house basically naked and wearing a cape. Luckily, it was 2 am.
Another side note: It was just our luck that Perry Township (where we live) had decided to redo all of the curbs in the neighborhood about 3 weeks before this night. That meant that we had to park our cars on the street and that there was a gulley between the end of our driveway and actual access to a car. Luckily, we had thought about that a bit and Chet Chaney of Perry Township had ensured that we had a plank at the end of our driveway that was wide enough for me to walk across if I went into labor. Let me tell you, however…’walking the plank’ naked and while in hard labor was not ideal.
I begged Kylene to ride with us but she knew that, after the birth, she was going to need her car so she reassured me that she would be right behind us and we began our caravan to Grady Memorial. My husband likes to race cars and motorcycles but I have NEVER seen him (or anyone) drive as fast as he did that night. It’s about 15 miles from Worthington to Delaware straight up 315 and I’m pretty sure Hubs was doing 80 in a 45.
I was in the front seat unable to speak and just kept watching the trees fly by through the sunroof on the car. I desperately wanted to tell Hubs to slow down but resigned myself to the fact that he was going to have to be in charge of the driving, as I had enough on my plate at that moment.
I don’t know how soon we arrived at Grady but I know we made it in record time. Hubs dropped me off at the door and went to park the car. Kylene accompanied me inside where we were met by a security guard who asked ‘How can I help you ladies?’ Ummm…I’m clearly 9 months pregnant and mostly naked…I’m here to see the podiatrist?
The nurses took one look at me, heard Kylene’s report that I was 10 cm dilated and hurried me into a wheelchair and up the elevators. I don’t think we signed a single piece of paper or provided any identification or insurance information until long after The Dude was born. I think that’s when I really started to realize that this baby was coming soon!
They got us into a birthing room and the nurse offered me a hospital gown. I immediately stated that our birth plan indicated that I intended to birth in my own clothing. We had learned a great deal over my pregnancy and felt strongly that birthing in a hospital gown made you a ‘patient’ while birthing in your own clothing was empowering and helped remind the staff that you weren’t ‘sick’ and didn’t want unnecessary interventions. The funny part was, however, I didn’t have any clothes on to birth in and there was no chance that I was putting any on. Up to that point, I had been a fairly modest person, but my entire childbirth experience was conducted completely naked and I couldn’t have cared less! To this day I wonder what the nurses and doctors thought about that!
Once our nurse realized that we were ‘those people’ with the crunchy birth plan, she left the room to go get it. After reviewing it briefly, she articulated to us what she thought we wanted:
- To be left alone with our doula as much as possible while I was laboring
- No induction…although that likely wasn’t an issue at that point in my labor.
- No C-section unless absolutely medically necessary.
- No IV. I was willing to allow them to put in a port in case I needed immediate medical attention but felt strongly that being attached to a IV would limit my ability to move to positions where it was easiest for me to birth.
- Monitors for the baby only at occasional intervals.
- No cervical checks
- No episiotomy
- Not to have my water broken artificially. We knew that there were risks that, upon breaking my water, the cord could wash down ahead of the baby and create the potential for it to wrap about the baby’s neck. We also knew that there was no issue with the baby being born ‘in the caul’ and that we wanted the birth to take its own course without being rushed.
- No cord cutting until all of the cord blood had drained into the baby
- For Hubs to announce the sex of the baby
- The vernix to be left on the baby. No immediate washing.
- The baby to be kept in the room with us and immediately placed on my chest after birth to promote bonding and nursing.
- No Vitamin K injection for the baby unless birth trauma or blood clotting problems were apparent
- No eye drops immediately after birth – these drops are administered to prevent syphilis from causing blindness in the baby. Since I had tested negative for all STDs, it seemed ridiculous to us to administer drops that could cause the baby to have trouble seeing and potentially impair immediate bonding.
- No circumcision if we had a boy. I could (and might) write a whole post on this topic. I know it’s controversial and brings out almost as much drama as the vaccine conversation but let it suffice to say for now that my stepsons were not circumcised and I couldn’t bear the idea of causing a baby pain so soon after his entry into the world. Hubs was on board and used to the idea because he wasn’t consulted at all on the decision in his first marriage.
- No bottle feeding.
- No pacifiers.
After confirming our birth plan wishes (primarily with Kylene and Hubs as I was mostly non communicative), our nurse immediately set about respecting our wishes. She turned the lights low in the birthing room, didn’t force me to put on any clothes or have an IV or heart monitor, assured us that she was available should we need her and that she would be back occasionally to check in.
To this point, my water had not broken but I was laboring pretty hard. Kylene was convinced that The Dude was going to be born without it breaking and I couldn’t really wrap my mind around much of anything at that point. Kylene was performing perineal massage for me in the hopes that we could avoid an episiotomy (the idea being that something that has been cut is more likely to rip than something that has not) and Hubs was helping me try to relax and listen to my hypnosis scripts.
We had yet to see Dr. Hammett and were informed, shortly after we arrived, that he would not be able to attend the birth. We were really disappointed but so far along at that point that I’m not sure it really mattered. I wasn’t sure who would be coming into see us but was later informed that his partner, Dr. Louvakis, would attend. As I learned later, Dr. Hammett was a widower with two children. It just so happened that, the night that The Dude was born, he was not on call and couldn’t find anyone to stay with his kids in order to be with me. While I certainly would have preferred that he deliver The Dude, we completely understood his situation and knew that he would make sure we were in good hands.
I was pretty shocked that the doctor hadn’t come in to see us. I had no idea (as I was a first-time mom) that the nurses pretty much attended the entire labor process and the doctor didn’t arrive until she was needed. Kylene kept and eye on me and our nurse came in and out quietly on occasion and I continued to labor. I mostly labored perched on the edge of the hospital bed in a sitting position and I think that having the ability to bear down in that way helped a great deal in progressing my labor.
At some point, I noticed that my body was tensing up intensely with a downward surging feeling. I can only describe the feeling by saying that it was much like the feeling you have when you stomach contracts before you vomit…except when vomiting, the result is a strong upward push. This stomach contraction was always followed by a strong downward push.
Kylene would occasionally say, ‘Can you give me another one of those?’ I honestly had no idea what she was talking about! As it turns out, I was one of the lucky ones who experienced ‘spontaneous pushing.’ My body had taken over and decided to move the baby down the birth canal. Kylene thought I was ‘doing work’ to bring the baby closer to crowning but I was at the mercy of my body. Apparently, I made a lot of progress pretty quickly.
Shortly thereafter, Dr. Louvakis did come in to check on me. She put the heart monitor on and took a look at my progress. She was intrigued that my water had not broken and advised us that, since the baby’s head was already engaged, there would be no risk to breaking the waters at that point. Hubs, Kylene and I conferred and agreed to let her do that.
She broke my water and then left, telling us that she would return in time to attend the delivery. Hubs and Kylene stayed with me and, not long after Dr. Louvakis left, Kylene announced that I was crowning. I had a mirror at the foot of the hospital bed and could see The Dude’s hair become visible. Before paging the nurse, Kylene asked if I wanted to touch his head. I’m not sure why but I immediately said no. I was a little freaked out at that point and afraid to hurt him. But I could see him coming and it was absolutely amazing!
Kylene paged the nurse who came in to confirm that I was crowning. She immediately called Dr. Louvakis who arrived quickly. I don’t remember how many times I pushed but, as I wrote above, my body did that work without me having to think about it. Several pushes later, The Dude was born at 5:02 am.
Unfortunately, just before The Dude’s head was fully birthed, Dr. Louvakis pulled. We had hoped that all of the perineal massage that we had done would prevent tearing and avoid the episiotomy but her last-minute pull caused considerable damage.
We had chosen not to learn the sex of our baby during my pregnancy so it was Eric’s job to investigate and announce that we had a BOY! I remember saying ‘It’s a Spencer!’ as we had chosen Spencer Reid as a boy’s name and Sidney Elise for a girl. The Dude was placed on my chest (that’s the photo from the last post) and immediately pooped on my stomach. It was that black, tarry, sticky meconium poop but I couldn’t have cared less. I guess he wanted me to know right away that my life had changed forever! The woman of two days before would have been disgusted!
While we had clearly articulated that we didn’t want the cord cut right away (we wanted all of that healthy cord blood to go into the baby,) Dr. Louvakis asked Hubs if he wanted to cut it (he didn’t…he’s very, very squeamish) and then began to cut it herself. Hubs immediately spoke up saying ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa!’ Louvakis (who had signed off on our birth plan but wasn’t particularly bought in) just rolled her eyes as if to say, ‘Oh…it’s you guys!’ But she waited to cut the cord.
The Hubs took him to the scale where the nurses weighed him in at 7 lbs 9 oz and gave him an Apgar score of 9. He brought him back to me without him being washed and The Dude immediately latched on to nurse. We had had a number of concerns about nursing prior to the birth: gestational diabetes can interfere with nursing and we were prepared to feed him with a special apparatus or dropper if necessary to avoid having to go to formula right away. None of that was necessary, however, as he took the breast like a champ within minutes.
I was overjoyed! My birthing experience had been amazing and basically exactly what we had hoped for. The staff was respectful of our wishes, Kylene was amazing and Hubs was able to be present and supportive in the way that he wanted to be. I didn’t suffer much and my labor was 6 hours start to finish. As I’ve said before, I would have done it again in a heartbeat!
As soon as The Dude started nursing, Kylene offered to get me some juice and crackers. I hadn’t eaten anything during labor and she thought I might benefit from some sustenance. Strangely, Dr. Louvakis put up a hand and said ‘No food or drink!’ We were really confused…why couldn’t I eat and drink now that the baby had been born? My baby was here, all was well and I was ecstatic. What was going on? Unfortunately, she advised us that it had been 45 minutes since The Dude came into the world and I still hadn’t birthed the placenta. We were advised that she had two things she could try and that, if they didn’t work, she would have to take me in for surgery to remove it.
Birthing the placenta was the worst part of the whole experience. The ‘two things’ that Dr. Louvakis mentioned were awful. First, she pressed intently on my stomach in an attempt to get the placenta to come out. Finally, she prepared me for discomfort and reached up into my uterus and scraped it out with her hand. I just remember shouting at some point, ‘Dr. Louvakis, THAT’S ENOUGH!’ Needless to say, it was painful. Luckily, it was over quickly and no surgery was required.
The only other ‘less than stellar’ moment occurred when Dr. Louvakis was repairing the tear that had occurred when she pulled on The Dude’s head. I was nursing, the birth was over (to my mind) and I was ready to be left alone. Nevertheless, the tears had to be repaired and, apparently, they were relatively extensive. Eventually, I remember asking Dr. Louvakis, ‘Are you almost finished?’ to which she replied, ‘Well, there’s one more problem. The final tear has subdivided your inner labia and I’m going to have to sew it back together. It’s completely cosmetic but it will take me some time to fix it.’ Hilariously, I was so ready to be done with childbirth and alone with my family that I asked Kylene and Hubs to go take a look and let me know if it was worth the additional trouble. Based on their recommendations, I decided to forego having it fixed and now have a ‘very special’ battle scar from birth.
We had promised that my stepsons could be the first to meet the new baby when he arrived so we called their mom’s house (as it was still very early and they had not yet gone to school) and arranged for Hubs to pick them up and bring them to the hospital. My parents, however, had been called at some point and driven from Cincinnati (getting pulled over on the way for speeding but talking their way out of the ticket) and were in the lobby. I knew that they were chomping at the bit to meet their new grandson so we let them sneak in before we went to get the boys. I’m pretty sure that, to this day, the boys don’t know that they weren’t the first to meet their brother but I’m not sure they would care!
I wouldn’t change a thing about how The Dude came into the world. We did nearly everything we had planned, had amazing support from the hospital staff, were attended by a fabulous doula and welcomed a perfect baby boy into the world! I remember telling a friend, shortly after returning home, that the birthing experience was, for me, like having just the briefest glimpse of God through the clouds before they converged again. I knew, with the birth of my son, how blessed I was!