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Water, Water, Water!

July 18, 2013

About four weeks ago, Eric and I were at home watching brain-dumbing shows on Netflix– what had become our normal weekday routine. While he was rotating between rubbing my swollen feet and massaging my ache back, I moaned “Wouldn’t it be nice if our boy arrived early? Maybe at 38 weeks or so…” Little did I know how soon my wish would be coming true!

At 10pm we headed to bed, and just as I was entering the REM cycle, I felt a warm liquid running down my legs. “Oh no! I am peeing the bed! Poor Eric.” I thought, still asleep. I tried to squeeze my bladder and tighten my pelvic muscles, but the liquid continued to run. Then it hit me! “Water! Water! Water!” I yelled, instantly awake, jumping out of bed.
Eric, who was used to my middle of the night whimpering noises and groans caused by a Charlie horse, reached over with his eyes still closed to massage my calves. A loud gush made him perk up as a big puddle of water was collecting at my feet. I ran to the bathroom. I was in labor. I was that rare 10% of women who break their water as the first step. Good thing I packed the hospital bag that day. While Eric was gathering the rest of the small items for the hospital, taking out the garbage and feeding the cat (The post-it with the to-do list I scribbled a few days earlier kept us calm and efficient), I called the Austin Regional Clinic’s after hours line. The nurse asked me to describe the water break (just to make sure I did not pee myself I after all). After hearing my story, she told me to head to the hospital and check in at the emergency room while she paged the on-call OB-GYN.

Eric had been worried about the car ride to hospital, as the traffic can be quite dreadful around rush hours. Even though the hospital is only 7 miles away, it can take up to 45 minutes to get there. But at 1am, we were the only car on the road and at 1:15am we were checked in and heading to the Delivery unit.

At this point, I was 2cm dilated and 50% effaced. The contractions, which started as soon as we arrived at the hospital, felt nothing like I imagined. There might have been cramps in my lower belly but they were dominated by the strong pain in my lower back and hips. The contraction pain built up gradually, peaked and eased off (consistent with the wave pattern on the contraction monitor). The intensity of each contraction was increasing drastically. The best comparison I could think of was a case of really bad food poising when your innards feel like they are twisting and ripping. Interestingly enough, the contractions brought on bowel movements and somehow squatting on the toilet made the pain more bearable.

As a runner, I tend to enjoy pushing my body to see how much pain I can tolerate. If I do this in my regular day-to-day life, of course the same would hold during labor. Even though the doctor had given an ok for the epidural to be administered at any point I wanted, I decided to wait until I was further along. So with one hand wheeling my IV pump and another wrapped around my husband’s, we walked the delivery hallway back and forth for 40 minutes until 4:30 in the morning. The pain was getting progressively worse where I had to hold on to Eric and the wall during each contraction not to fall down. Once my body started to convulse from the pain, we called it quits and asked for the epidural.

The best part of being in the delivery ward in the middle of the night was that there were only two patients on the entire floor (myself and another lady who was peacefully sleeping). So the entire medical staff were at my beck and call. The anesthesiologist arrived fairly quickly. He was a young looking skinny Indian guy wearing Converse sneakers. Remembering reading the horror stories about epidural administration gone awry, I looked at him skeptically and said “You aren’t a student, are you?” (Eric found my ball-busting attitude in the middle of labor to be particular entertaining.) “Nah,” he said with a serious look on his face “I just read up how to do this online.” “Funny guy” I growled back, with a withering look—Eric claims I bared my teeth at him. “I’ve been doing this since 2007” he finally answered. It took my pregnant brain awhile to do the math, but I finally derived at 6 years and sighed in relief. The toughest part about receiving the epidural is not the needle prick but to stay completely still while you are experiencing strong contractions. Once the spinal block was in, it took just a couple of contractions for the medicine to start working and my, oh my, it felt amazing. I could still feel pressure with each contraction and a bit of discomfort but nothing compared to what it was before. I was happy! I was even happier to find out that I was at 4-5cm dilated just as per my birth plan.

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After the epidural, Eric and I relaxed and dozed off for a bit. At 8am, I was disappointed to find out that my awesome Jewish Santa of a Doctor was off that day, and instead the “pretty” doc would be delivering me. (Eric and I met both Drs during the hospital tour. At the time, we could not remember their names so we came up with nicknames. The pretty Dr had a Paul Newman vibe with piercing blue eyes, chiseled features, and charming smile.) When the pretty doctor checked me, I was at 8cm, 90% effaced. Not bad for a first time mom! It took another 2 hours to get to 9cm and 100% effaced. “You’ll have the baby before lunch” the delivery nurse reassured us, but she was wrong. It took another 2hrs to get that last cm. (Apparently, for first time mom’s it takes longer as the hymenal ring needs to disappear in addition to getting to full 10cm.) At noon, exactly twelve hours after my water broke, it was time to push!

I have a confession to make, I was looking forward to the pushing. It was my favorite part. This is where all the endurance training and yoga breathing paid off. There is an art to pushing which I learned as I was being coached by the delivery nurses. You have to push from your diaphragm, not your abs or pelvis, as I was attempting in the beginning. As I felt each contraction approaching, I’d hold on to my legs, take a deep breath, tuck in the chin, and focus all my energy on the diaphragm. The nurses offered to bring in the mirror so I can see the progress, but I refused. (The last thing I needed was to see what was happening. I could visualize just fine without the actual gory details.) “But you look so good down there! So clean” they said delightfully. “I’ll pass anyways!” So they tried to get Eric to look down, which he politely refused with an uncomfortable smile on his face he continued to hover by my head. I guess when you work in delivery you want everyone to see what you see to share the excitement. The weirdest part, which did not feel so weird at the time, was making small talk with the nurses between the contractions. I learned each nurse’s name, the names and ages of their kids, and their birthing stories.

The Dr checked in on me again at around 12:30pm to see how the pushing was progressing  (I was under the impression that a doctor would be in the delivery room all through the pushing, but it’s the nurses that run the show. Doctors only take over once the head crowns).  The baby was facing down but his head was slightly turned to the right side and was getting stuck behind my pelvic bone. Once the head crowned, the delivery nurse told me to hold off on pushing while she called the Dr and a bunch more nurses to come in. The nurses wheeled in two carts of additional equipment and there was lots of locomotion while they prepared the room for the actual birth. It took 2 hours and 40 minutes for the head to crown and only two minutes and three pushes get the rest of him out. Once he was out and I could hear him crying, it was all very overwhelming. I only got a quick glance at the baby before they took him away. He was one cheesy baby – queso as the pretty Dr called him. After Eric cut the cord, he was following the baby through the measuring stations while profusely snapping photos. The Dr and a few nurses collected the blood for cord blood donation. (Because the donation program is relatively new, the instructions were poor and it took three medical professionals and two calls to the blood bank to get the collection in order). The minute the baby was out of me all the pain and pressure was completely gone, like someone flipped the birthing switch off. I did not feel the afterbirth at all.  I remember the Dr talking to me about two small stitches but my mind was a blur as I kept on lifting my head trying to take a peak at the baby. Finally, what felt like an eternity, the baby was in my arms for some skin to skin and nursing.

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Even though I avoided Pitocin during labor, it was used postpartum to help shrink the uterus. After a couple of hours on Pitocin, a clean up and a bathroom break where I set a record for the most post-labor pee (the epidural drugs made me incredibly thirsty), we were moved upstairs to the recovery suite. We were ecstatic and exhausted!

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It was hard to get a good sleep at the hospital as the nurses kept checking on us every two hours. They took our vitals, checked my uterus, looked over baby’s input/output log and brought me more water (I was still thirsty!). Eric was on baby duty to let me rest.

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After a few interrupted hours of sleep and a warm shower, I felt remarkably well. I had minor cramping and bleeding (nothing more than a heavy period), but I was not sore or in pain! I felt way better than I usually do the day after a marathon race. I am constantly amazed at how much humans can physically and mentally accomplish, but most of our achievements require numerous hours of training and learning. We don’t wake up one day and climb Everest or solve differential equations out of the womb (maybe my son will be an exception?!). Childbirth, on the other hand, is something women are genetically programmed to do without any preparation. As a first time mom, I was worried about labor. Will the baby be in the right position? Will I progress to full 10cm on my own? Will the baby fit through my pelvis? Will there be complications? Will I need an emergency C-section? etc. It was amazing how well everything was designed to work. My water breaking naturally and my dilation progress were signs of a natural healthy labor. I had a textbook delivery (or as Eric likes to call it, movie like without the drama and overly exaggerated screaming). I am convinced that if I reached 40 weeks, the baby would have been too big to fit through the birth canal, so there was a reason he came earlier. As they say, mother nature knows best!

Just like after a long run, the next morning I woke up starving. I’d been craving Lox sandwiches for months during my pregnancy but smoked salmon was off limits back then. Not anymore!

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I requested vegetarian meals for my hospital stay which must be very uncommon in Texas as every morning a staff member would come to my room to design my custom veggie order. Surprisingly, the hospital food was pretty good.

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After a two day stay, it was time to go home. We were filled with mixed feelings. On one hand, we were looking forward to some peaceful familiar surroundings and the comforts of home; on the other hand, it was a bit terrifying to be in charge of a tiny human with no nurses to assist. One thing’s for sure, we’re extremely excited to embark on the new path of parenthood.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. thebabydoctorswife permalink
    July 18, 2013 11:45 am

    Congrats mama! What a beautiful baby you have! I didn’t see his name? So glad everything went so wonderfully! xo

  2. July 21, 2013 1:33 pm

    What a beautiful, perfect story! Congratulations! 🙂
    The pictures are beautiful and you look amazing.
    Enjoy your time with little baby. He will grow up way too fast, I’m sure.
    Thank you for sharing this story. For some reason, I really love reading delivery stories. Mentally preparing, I guess. Haha.

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