Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Babby's Birth Story

birth stories

For those of you who are fans of birth stories, TMI, or both -- and in honor of Paloma turning a week old yesterday -- I thought I'd share a bit about Paloma's entrance into the world. If you don't want to read about labor and delivery, my private parts, or the trials of nursing (in the next installment), please navigate away from this page and go visit your favorite non-gross web site. For the first part of this story, look here.



**************TMI ALERT***************





"At 34 weeks of pregnancy, your baby is about 17 inches long and weighs about 4 pounds."

I have confirmation that the above statement excerpted from a week-by-week pregnancy book is indeed true, because when Paloma entered the world she measured in at 17.25 inches and weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces.

Paloma was born at 8:37 p.m. on February 14, 2009 in the hospital's Labor & Delivery ward. I was admitted into the hospital at around 5:30 p.m., after returning for a second shot of steroids to speed the development of my baby's lungs in case she chose to arrive early. While both the midwife and the nurse on duty had, the day before, said that even at two centimeters of dilation and with a negative fetal fibronectin test, there was a huge likelihood that I would make it to term before giving birth, I was once again experiencing contractions. Plus, I was logging them, so I knew that they were increasing in intensity.

The nurse called the midwife -- from whom we bought our house, incidentally --who arrived shortly thereafter to check my cervix, which had dilated to four centimeters. Still, I was told, there was a chance I could stay at four centimeters indefinitely with bed rest. On the other hand, Paloma had been gestating for a full 34 weeks as of 12 a.m. of that day and I'd had both doses of the steroid and the Terbutaline hadn't been effective, so the midwife and the OB on call agreed that they would let nature take its course if I were to dilate further.

Which, of course, I did, and quite rapidly. It was only about a half hour later that I was at six centimeters, and it was decided all around that there was no stopping Paloma's headlong entrance into the world. I allowed myself approximately 30 seconds of blubbering before settling myself and getting down to business.

Soon, we were calling my mom to let her know that if she wanted to come for the birth, she'd have to get in the car ASAP, and informing anyone who would listen that our childbirth class was scheduled for the following weekend so we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. I then asked the midwife if I could send the BabbyDaddy back to the house for some personal items like deodorant and a toothbrush, the camera, a sandwich, and my favorite stuffed animal (who I held in a choke hold for much of labor). She said that if she didn't know just how close we lived to the hospital, she wouldn't have let him leave because of how quickly things were progressing.

The BabbyDaddy returned bearing all that I'd requested and ate half the Subway sub he'd brought. Contractions came and contractions went with less and less break time between, and my breathing through them as best as I could with a great deal of wonderful encouragement from the midwife. While we did ask my mom for a crash course in Lamaze breathing, by the time the contractions were getting intense I had no interest in trying to coordinate my breathing in any sort of structured way. Long, deep breaths seemed most effective at distracting me from the pain, which was all I really wanted.

I was briefly up and about, sitting on a birthing ball, but moving caused a spike in Paloma's heart rate, and with her being so early, no one wanted to take any chances. I therefore climbed back into bed, where I was instructed to lie as quietly as I could while it was determined that the spike was normal and would not repeat itself. It was while I was laying there that the intensity of the contractions peaked and they decided to break my amniotic sac with something that looks like a giant plastic crochet hook. The fluid, it gushed in a very warm and wet way.

Then there was transition, that magical time during which the baby actually enters what is euphemistically known as the "birth canal." Having never attended childbirth class, my knowledge of this stage of labor was gleaned from various feel-good web sites whose copy is designed not to frighten expectant moms. Basically, the sites said that the contractions would come fairly continuously and might feel more intense than they had before. I'd want to do things like "focus" and "breathe through" and "visualize" to get through them.

I'll tell you how I got through transition. I wailed like a grieving banshee. If there were other moms giving birth at the same time (especially moms who opted for epidurals) I probably scared the daylights out of them. The BabbyDaddy had this to say about transition: "I've never heard you make sounds like that before. I'm impressed."

The funny thing is that so many hormones flood your system immediately after birth that transition becomes a hazy memory. I literally do not have any emotional memory of transition. I remember all of the wailing and wanting to sort of claw my way out of my body because it felt like that would be the only possible thing to make the hurt go away. I remember it being intensely painful in a completely novel way, and I remember the midwife telling me I had entered transition and saying "Oh, cool" before resuming my uncontrollable vocalizations.

It went on like that for some period of time I have no concept of, and then the midwife informed me that it was time to push. Not surprisingly, I had no idea how to push, never having had a baby before and going into labor a week before childbirth classes. I made two attempts before the midwife explained that I should use the muscles one uses when coughing and defecating. In fact, pushing during labor feels very, very much like pushing when defecating.

Now, while I would have liked to push Paloma out into the world in a squatting position, I was already lying down because of the earlier increases in Paloma's heart rate. Had I been squatting, I might have been able to stay that way. As it was, there was little chance of my changing positions during transition because everything was progressing so rapidly. Much like in the movies, I gave birth while on my back, with my chin on my chest, and the BabbyDaddy, the midwife, and a nurse holding my legs up.

Unlike in the movies and the many birthing videos I watched on YouTube, there was simply no time for me to reach down and feel Paloma's head emerging or to admire the elasticity of my vagina in a hand mirror. There was less than thirty seconds between each push and I growled my way through each. Almost as soon as I'd stop pushing and the midwife and nurse would focus on the NICU nurses preparing the warming bed, I'd feel the next wave coming and alert everyone within earshot that "Another one is coming!"

The BabbyDaddy, on the other hand, did get to see the whole show from the interesting angle, and saw Paloma's head make its appearance, where, according to her medical records, she began spontaneously crying "at the perineum." Four pushes later, some part of my brain decided that in addition to pushing my baby out, I should lift my body up, so I began trying to inch my way up the bed. On the fifth push, I felt Paloma's squirmy little form exit my own body... an odd sensation, to say the least.

While Paloma was still tethered to me, someone placed her on my chest, and I was surprised that she was less slimy than I thought she'd be. By this point, she had quieted somewhat, and we two looked at each other quietly in the midst of chaos. The midwife then asked the BabbyDaddy if he'd like to cut the cord -- which had to be severed while still pulsating because of the risk of infection -- and he said that he would, and did so. Then my baby was whisked off of me and onto a warming table to be cleansed and examined to ensure that she was stable.

I was at the time in a bit of a daze, so I wasn't particularly bothered that they'd taken Paloma again. I had been warned that her being so early would mean that I would not get a great deal of time with her immediately post birth, and I was also tasked with birthing the placenta, which came on smoothly in one good go. Before pushing it out, I did ask the midwife whether it would hurt, and she said "No, because it has no bones." She was right.

After Paloma was cleaned and swaddled, they let me hold her again, quite briefly, before taking her up to the NICU. Given the choice between having the BabbyDaddy stay with me while I received a post-birth examination and sending him to the NICU with our baby, I chose to have him accompany Paloma. She was breathing and pink, but I was still worried about her and I needed to know that someone who cared would be with her. Plus, I had a wonderful midwife still with me, and together we had to attend to the business of potentially stitching me up.

I did not have any sort of major tear and had the foresight to ask that I not be given any kind of routine episiotomy, and the midwife even considered not stitching me, but in the end decided to put a single stitch in four locations that were just on the iffy side. I then made the mistake of looking at the needle full of local anesthetic, which from my perspective, looked absolutely huge. It felt almost exactly like one might imagine a needle to the labia might feel. The stitching, too, felt as one would imagine, with quite a bit of odd tugging.

(It used to say "to be continued..." here but frankly, this whole blog is the continuation of this story. I'd love it if you lovely people would link up your birth stories here!)


  1. Awww, and there she was! A beautiful baby girl. :)

  2. Wow! What a story! I also had a preemie, but her story is almost completely labor, c-section, and the anesthetic didn't take effect fast enough, so they had to give me extra drugs on the table. Anyway, kudos to you for going through with the all natural thing!

  3. I love birth stories! I have two sons with VERY different birth stories. Here they are:'


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