Saturday, July 14, 2007

Claire's Birth Story

This is the contraction chart I created while in labor with Claire. I noted the time a contraction would start, how long it had been since the last one started, how long this one lasted, and what I was doing or feeling at that time. I've color coded these things to help keep them straight:

Time/Spacing/Duration/Behavior or Comments (Bold = what I wrote at the time. Not bold = commentary.)
6:57 a.m. / ---- / 2 min., 30 sec.
Friday, July 14, 2006 (6 days before due date). After 6 restful hours of sleep, Casey’s (D.H.) alarm wakes me at 6:30 a.m. I thought I had been waking up because I needed to pee, but when I have a contraction as the alarm goes off, I begin to think that’s why I woke several times before the alarm sounded. I wake Casey (sleeping on the couch—back problems) and tell him that I think I’m in labor (again) and “this is different” (again—I said this very same thing yesterday). We decide he’ll go to work and we’ll reassess where things are at lunch time. On his way to work, Casey calls my mom in Colorado (5-6 hour drive) to give her a heads up that we may call her today to come down. He also calls his mom and brother.
7:07 / 10 / 1:30 Menstrual-like cramping
7:16 / 9 / 2:00 Baby moving between contractions
7:25 / 9 / 2:55 STRONG contractions: I would consider these painful.
(The difficulty is, though the contractions themselves are painful, I feel good—I mean really good— between them. Haven’t felt this good in a month, probably. This lends to the thinking that this can't be "real" labor. Even though the contractions are crampy, most are no longer, stronger or even closer together than my Braxton Hicks have been. No back or leg labor today; it’s way too easy, easier than my “false” labor has been.)
7:35 / 10 /1:30
7:40 / 5 / 1:10
7:50 / 10 / 2:15
8:00 / 10 / 1:00
---------------- Sleep (dream about baby). A few contractions woke me.
9:35 /---- / 1:10
9:44 / 9 / 2:00 Shower (next 2 contractions also)
9:50 / 6 / 1:00 "
9:55 /5 /0:45 "
10:00 /5 /1:30 Get Ruby (17 months old) up, get breakfast
10:06 / 6 / 1:00
10:10 /4 / 0:30 (Contraction) didn’t ever get going
10:16 / 6 /2:00 Very STRONG—almost took my breath away
10:25 / 9 / 0:30 (Petered out) Eat bagel and cream cheese
10:30 / 5 / 1:30 STRONG again
10:38 / 8 / 1:10
10:46 / 8 / 1:15 (drink) 12 oz milk
10:54 / 8 / 1:15
11:00 / 6 / 1:45
11:06 / 6 / 1:00 Call Casey @ work—he’ll stay (was thinking of just working half day, but things haven’t changed much since this morning.)
11:16 / 10 / 1:00 Call from Sandy (MIL)
11:25 / 9 / 1:30
11:32 / 8 / 1:30 Empty bladder
11:46 / 14 / 1:30 A few contractions started, then petered out
11:54 / 8 / 1:30
12:05 p.m. / 11 / 1:00
12:12 / 7 / 0:45
12:19 / 7 / 1:30
12:27 / 8 / 1:30
12:35 / 8 / 4:45
12:42 / 7 / 1:30
12:50 / 8 / 1:00
12:55 / 5 / 1:30
1p.m. to 4ish: Met Christina & Sarah (two friends from Bradley class from last pregnancy) at the base pool to stave off disappointment in case this fizzles. Didn’t time or count these contractions, but they were noticeable. Some ladies at the baby pool (Christina & Sarah’s friends) told me they’ve all had babies and some have been coaches for each other when their husbands are TDY, so if I have this baby at the pool, they’ll help me. (It was more lighthearted than it sounds. Nobody actually suspected that it would be a matter of hours before she was born. In fact, later, another pregnant woman asked me when I was due, and I told her I thought I might be in labor right now. I still wasn’t thinking it would go anywhere by then.)

Ruby played in the pool, and I walked around in the water (wearing a dress) and sat on the edge and then on a chaise lounger. Drank 24 oz. pink lemonade like it was nothing and shared watermelon and cheese and crackers w/Ruby during this time. I had brought my camera, but it was too much trouble to get it out and ask someone to take a picture of Ruby and me on one of our last outings as “just the two of us.” I wish I had gone to the trouble.

Around 2:30, I started to feel uncomfortable and panicky, but I didn’t know anyone well enough to show it. I could have cried here. I hate being vulnerable in front of strangers and didn’t want anyone slowing me up more than I already was by making a big deal out of it. I did NOT want to have this baby at the pool in front of everybody, and if I panicked, an “emergency” would ensue and they’d call 911 and wouldn’t let me drive home. Besides, I figured I was just overheated and it was being hugely prego right in the middle of the summer and being thirsty that made me feel this way, not the contractions. I really wanted something more to drink, but didn’t think I could make it to the snack shop 20 feet away. Christina announced that she’d be on her way, and I jumped at the chance. Told her I should head out, too. I got Ruby dressed, packed my stuff up and called Casey w/Christina’s phone (mine had been missing for the past month) to tell him I was going to head home. It seemed like an eternity to get to the car (it may have taken a good 15-20 minutes). I was SO slow. It didn’t help that I’d parked so far away and let Ruby walk—didn’t think of bringing the stroller. I didn’t stop for contractions—didn’t want Christina to think that things had gotten that serious—but I was very slow. I felt so badly for Christina. Hoped I wasn’t holding her up too much from something she needed to get to, but I really needed her. I don’t know if she knew how much I needed her help right then, since I was still trying to hide my panic. She helped load Ruby and my stuff up in the car and took off.

I got in the car around 3, and stopped by Sonic to get a drink and ice around 3:30. The teenager in the drive-through said “good luck” as he handed me the ice. I was pretty surprised that he could put 2 and 2 together—me being hugely pregnant and buying a bag of ice.

By this time, I was feeling much better, hydrating myself and having cooled off in the air conditioning. I chalked the recent panic up to being out in the heat too long. I considered running to Target to get a few things, thought about how embarrassing it would be for my water to break in the aisle, reminded myself that that only happens in rare circumstances and water usually breaks during active labor, so I’d be pretty safe. Then I looked back at my girl, and she was seriously fading. I decided to go straight home and put her down for a nap. (Yes, you may state the obvious—God was VERY gracious to me especially during these hours!) During trip home, contractions were about every 10 min. It was difficult to drive during these ones.

3:57 / 11 / 1:15 Arrive home. Put ice in freezer, put Ruby down for a nap and lay down myself. Call Mom to tell her not much has changed, but they haven’t petered out yet today, so maybe this will turn out to be labor. Not sure what to tell her. I’d hate for her to come if it’s just going to peter out again. Going to take a nap and see if anything changes.

4:08 / 10 / 1:00
4:18 / 10 / 1:00 Water broke with a gush (but not a pop) at 4:20 (between contractions). Thankfully, I’m on the waterproof pad! Still on phone w/Mom. I tell her I think my water broke. I’ll call her back as soon as I know for sure. Call Casey (on his way home after working a full day!) and tell him I’m too scared to check if the gush was water or blood. He’s 2 min away. He checks—yes, it is water! I might actually be in labor this time!

4:25 / 7 / 1:00 ? On toilet (for next 3, also). Somewhere in here, I call Mom back and tell her we’re either in labor or soon will be. She’s already in the van ready to leave when I call. Says she knew.
Casey calls Thomas (our pastor) to tell him my water broke and I’m in labor. (A lot of confusion ensues because of this call. Casey called again and left a message when I had Claire, so anyone who was at the Friday night Bible study or church on Sunday had the impression that my labor was 2 hours long. I had a hard time explaining that I had her 2 hours after we knew I was in labor for sure. I wish it was more common for women to not recognize labor! I get so many weird looks from people, and I don’t know how to explain the prodromal “frog-in-the-pot-of-water” part that made it so confusing for me to determine.)

4:32 / 7 / 1:15 (Still on toilet) I’m really excited to think I might have this baby in the next day or two, but disappointed that my water broke “so early on” in labor after all the protein I had eaten. I’m still thinking here that this might be labor or labor might start soon, and counting on it petering out like Ruby’s did for 10 hours or so, then getting going again (don’t want to be disappointed if that happens, so I’m planning on a long night and then some). Don’t know if I’ll have her before the 24 hour “cutoff” after water breaks. But I guess I don’t mind if I have to go to the hospital tomorrow night. At least I’m actually going to have this baby this time—one way or another.
4:41 / 9 / 1:15 Still on toilet
4:46 / 5 / 1:00
------------ Missed timing a contraction
4:54 / ? / 0:45
5:03 / 5 / 1:15 Casey evicts the drunken tenants from our rental property (on his cell phone on the back patio). I overhear him as I’m getting something in the kitchen wearing a tank top and a towel between my legs, then returning to the bathroom, calling people on the home phone, telling them we are having a baby. (Midwife, Christina, Kari, Gram, etc.) It was hard talking to the last couple of people, trying to hide the pain. (Should have told me it was getting serious.)

5:07 / 4 / 1:00 Even now, my emotional signpost is excitement, so I think I have a LONG way to go. Little do I know!

5:12 / 4 / 2:00 GUSHES of water—DOOZIE contraction (hard to relax). After this, Casey videotapes for a minute and takes a last pregnant picture. We’re sure it’s happening now.

5:16 / 4 / 0:45 Not bad (In the video it’s hard to tell I’m even having one.)
5:20 / 4 / 1:00 Hard to talk through.
5:22 / 2 / 1:15 On toilet—very hard being upright. Barbara (midwife) is on her way from a VBAC birth (where she’s been since yesterday). She had asked if she had time to go home and get some sterile tools and take a shower. I told her no rush. She knew better. I’m glad she didn’t take a long shower or have to sterilize the tools!

5:27 / 5 / 1:30 I tell Barbara (over the phone) that I don’t want to leave the tiled area since I’m now constantly leaking fluid, but I can’t stand anymore. It’s too painful, but the bed isn’t ready yet (Casey’s putting a shower curtain under some old sheets). She tells me to lay some old towels out to protect the carpet from the bathroom to the bed. I think I asked Casey to do this. I didn’t want to move. Then I hurried to the bed before the next contraction began.

5:32 / 5 / 2:00 DOOZIE (lying down, finally). Casey is sitting at the desk working on blowing up the birth tub with a foot pump. Between contractions, I tell him I’m afraid to say it, but maybe the reason I’m not able to relax well is because I’m not supposed to be relaxing, but working w/the contractions (i.e. pushing). (I don’t want to think too much about this, because what if I have another day of this ahead? Wouldn’t I be disappointed?) I lay down on my left side. About this time, Casey gets Ruby up from her nap. She comes to visit me during a few of these contractions. (Good thing I practiced relaxation while she was loud, whining and/or cantankerous for the last few months. I can keep focused despite the noise—ugly as it is at times. My “Braxton Hicks School of Relaxation” has really paid off!) Casey videotapes for a minute—the last taping before I have Claire.

5:40 / 8 / 1:00 For two contractions or so around here (including the one in this video), I begin to mentally panic. The pain is so unbearable and I don’t think I can do this for another day or two. I question why I chose a home birth—I can’t do this—I might need drugs!!! In my head, I scream: “Somebody help me!” but I can hardly breathe at all, (let alone have the breath to say something), the contractions are so strong.

5:45 / 5 / 2:00 After transition is over (in hindsight—but at the time I’m still thinking I have hours and hours left of this), I tell Casey (who has finished pumping) I think I need him (with me) now. He says, “What do you want me to do? Fill up the tub, get Ruby’s stuff together, or help you through contractions?” I tell him to forget the tub and get Ruby ready. . .and hurry!

5:51 / 6 / 2:00 Not bad. (I can’t believe I’m still timing contractions and making notes.) At this time, Casey takes Ruby out to Matt & Christina, who have kindly swung by to get her. While he is out front, Barbara arrives, and he tells her to go on inside.

? / ? / ? GUSH (that’s all I wrote on the pad—not able to write anything else before a second strong contraction came—but I wanted everything documented, and no one else was there. I was writing “gush” right after the 1st contraction when Barbara came in the room.)

During this “gush” contraction, my body pushed (hence the gush of fluid, I’m guessing). I didn’t mean to, but my body took over. My body pushed for these 2 contractions and Barbara came in around 6:05 right between them, so I probably started pushing about 6 p.m.

I told Barbara that I was glad she was here, because I needed her. I was having a hard time relaxing. (Contractions were coming right on top of each other.) I told her my body was pushing, but that I wanted to make sure it was okay before I tried (still thinking my body was once again playing tricks on me and trying to protect myself from disappointment in case I was nowhere near 10 cm.) She said she’d check me and I asked if she could wait till this 2nd contraction was over. When it subsided, she checked me and said, “you are complete.” And “the baby’s head is about that far (with her thumb and forefinger about 2 inches apart) from coming out.” Wow! That was encouraging! To think I only had to push her a few inches and she’d be out! (If only someone had given me that mental picture for Ruby’s birth.)

6:10 / ? / ? Another contraction came and my body pushed by itself again. Right after the contraction, Aimee (the intern who is also Barbara’s daughter) arrived. Shortly thereafter, Casey joined us.

I asked Barbara what I should do and she suggested that I get off my side and for Casey to come behind me as a sort of lounge chair. So, for the duration of the contractions, this is how we were. My legs were “flopped” to either side of me—I didn’t waste energy holding them up—just focused all my power to pushing where it mattered. It was quite comfortable, and, though the contractions were so strong I could barely catch my breath in time to push, I felt like I had 15 minute breaks between them. I asked Barb and she said I had about 2 min. between. (I have no idea how long they were, so it may have been more like a minute break.) I felt so good between contractions, I told them I could totally do this again...even tomorrow. But the contractions were doozies. I had to ask Casey not to touch my belly during them, as he was trying to ascertain when they would start and end. We were way beyond the kind of contractions where my belly being touched would have been okay with me. (Funny thing was that between even these contractions I felt so much better than I had for the past month when I had been having “false” labor. I’d gladly take the real labor day over any of those “false” days full of leg and back labor and intense pain that didn’t subside between contractions!)

We talked here and there between contractions. . . I mentioned that I had dreamed about the baby that morning, how good I felt—how doable this was.

For the pushing contractions: I would feel one coming on and (closing my eyes), right away I had to take a deep breath just to keep from tensing and holding my breath. If I hadn’t breathed in in time, I would have been in trouble—the pain quickly became so great and overpowering. But catching my breath before it was taken from me (in a deep, controlled way) caused me to stay above the pain and focus my energy on pushing, not struggling to catch my breath. I would breathe in slowly, exhale, inhale again, wait for the peak, then push with all I had; exhale, breathe again and push with all I had again. I believe this is what the Bradley book said to do, and it did the trick.

Her head was soon crowning (at this point, I did say “I hurt, I hurt, I hurt,” to which Barbara replied, “Yes. Yes.” Don’t ask me why, but that was so comforting, maybe to be acknowledged and agreed—not argued—with.) Claire’s head finally came out (over a few contractions, maybe? I don’t know) and that pain subsided. Barb asked me to move “up,” since the angle was causing Claire’s face to be in the escaping fluid. I didn’t understand quite right, so I pushed myself up to sit more uprightly and was quickly encouraged to scoot my bottom down nearer to Barb and Aimee. I guess I just had “up” in my mind—didn’t think if it made sense or not.

Barb had mentioned that she’d be telling me to hold off on pushing soon, so as to let the baby ease out slowly. She said it might be hard to do, and that I really needed to listen for her voice when she told me, because I would be pretty focused on pushing. I told her I’d be listening intently for those instructions—I didn’t want my baby to shoot out of me like last time. (Hoping not to tear so extensively this time.) Claire’s shoulder’s came out together (they’re supposed to come out one at a time as the baby turns slightly), so I did tear in two places, but they were so small I didn’t need any stitches. A lot of blood and fluid came out with Claire’s shoulders. Casey likes to refer to it as the time “the blood was flying.” (Apparently, it got both him and Aimee.)

6:28 p.m. Claire Elise Cowart enters the world! I don’t remember the blow-by-blow, but Barb and Aimee told me to pick her up and put her on my bare belly. We were still in our “lounge chair” position and one of them quickly put a hat on her head and a towel over both of us to retain as much heat as possible. We got some video within about 5 minutes. No one had checked yet to see if she really was a girl, so I checked. Claire was very quiet. She made little squeaks and sounds, but didn’t really cry. (She did gag a lot for the first day or so, perhaps because she didn’t cry all the mucus out?)

Claire nursed and boy, did I feel the afterbirth contractions! They were almost too much to bear. I don’t know if they were worse than the labor contractions or if I’m just a wimp after the baby’s out, but those things made me sick. I couldn’t keep from tensing and wincing with pain. Barb waited a while before “upsetting” our family. The cord had stopped pulsing and the placenta was delivered with only a little discomfort where I had torn. Casey cut the cord (not that he was that into it, but Barb gave him the scissors and told him what to do.) Casey got me a snack (cottage cheese) and drink (Gatorade-ish stuff) while Barb and Aimee cleaned me up, then commenced with the baby check, more than an hour after Claire was born. We kept the lights low and Claire just looked around. She could already hold her own head up. She was 21 ½ inches long and weighed 8 lb. even. A side note: like my previous pregnancy, I had tested positive for Group B Strep at 37 weeks. (I must be a carrier!) I did a "home" remedy (which I did wrong) and was re-tested the next week. Barb got the results when she rushed home to get a shower, etc. that day. (Probably why she was intent on getting lots of info. over the phone about the color, etc. of the amniotic fluid.) She refrained from telling me I was still GBS + until after I had birthed Claire--something I'm very grateful for. I don't think I could've relaxed very well with that knowledge at the time, though now it seems like no big deal.
Barb sends Casey out for some pads that are “sufficient” (she doesn’t like the ones I got). Casey yells to the neighbors as he hops in his car: “I just had a baby! Whoo Hoo!”

9:?? Barb and Aimee leave to (finally) get some rest after over 40 straight hours of work. The Andersons bring Ruby home to meet her little sister. Ruby does not seem surprised or out of sorts. She loves Claire from the start. Christina comes in and we talk for a few minutes. Casey sends an e-mail to our friends and family and we make some phone calls. My mom arrives somewhere around 10:30. We talk for a little while. At some point, we call it a night.