This is the story of the intense 2.5-hour labor of our third child and first boy, Joey!
[***This post may very well contain TMI! But birth is a messy experience and I wanted to be real about it. Read at your own risk!]
Last Friday was a day for crossing things off of my "Get Ready for Joey" to do list. First I went for a walk with the girls in the stroller. I hadn't been very active at the end of my pregnancy because I was too lazy to get up early to exercise myself and it was usually too hot to do a lot of walking later in the day with the girls. But I hurried them out the door early and we walked to the nearby golf course and saw some geese at the water hazard.
Then I cleaned my room, organized all of the baby gear in Joey's room, and moved our recliner in there. I also did laundry, gave Lizzy Jo a make over (hair, nails, make up!), and read a bunch of books to the girls (This summer Lizzy is way into our summer reading program). I just felt like I wanted to give them as much of myself as possible during our last days as a family of four. To end the day, I downloaded my contraction timer app!
I thought that last preparation was perfectly timed (hehe) because I woke up to contractions early Saturday morning, around 3 a.m. At first I tried to sleep through them, thinking that they would eventually go away. I had told my mom that I'd know the day of delivery was approaching when I had my usual few days of early morning contractions (I had several days of this with Charly before the real deal). So I wanted my contractions to earn my attention! After 1.5 hours of contractions, I started timing them on the app. They were really irregular in length and frequency, and intense enough to keep me mostly awake but not really painful. After 1.5 hours of timing them, I put my phone away and just slept through them. Each contraction would still wake me up, but then I'd go right back to sleep. Finally, around 7 a.m. I got up and let Dave know that I thought I was really in labor, as they hadn't gone away in 4 hours. I repacked the hospital bag, putting in my usual toothbrush and contact case and taking out the spare ones that
had already been packed. But this movement was all it took to make what were really Braxton Hicks contractions just melt away. And this was a big mistake because when I got these items out of my bag to get ready for bed Saturday night, I didn't replace the spare ones. This is only important because I would never have the time to swap these items again.
So Saturday was another "Get Ready for Joey" day. I looked over my birth plan, bought some supplies I would need postpartum, worked on finalizing my labor music playlists, and just enjoyed my girls. That evening I went to a church meeting that talked a lot about family and how to teach your children about Christ. I felt inspired by it, and determined that I would create some new traditions for our family to help me teach my children, including our soon-to-be third child. I include this as part of the story because although I haven't taken the time to follow through on this inspiration because of the event of the following day, I want to remember it as part of my preparation for our son. I read my scriptures that night before going to bed early. I slept so well!
Sunday morning, I woke up around 6:30 a.m. I was a little disappointed that I hadn't had a repeat of my usual early morning contractions. Dave and I snoozed in bed, with no hint from my body as to what was just about to happen. Dave had an early church meeting starting at 7 a.m., so about 6:45 he started getting ready and I got up to go in the girls' room since I heard Charly talking in there. I asked her if she wanted me to snuggle with her in her bed for a few minutes and she said yes. We snuggled and then decided to head to the kitchen for breakfast. Lizzy was awake but not ready to get out of bed. I had an odd contraction here and there through all this, but they weren't really much to notice and I don't think I even mentioned them to Dave. He left the house a little after 7.
Meanwhile I had started making myself some grits, and I was trying to convince Charly to have some too. She refused to choose anything to eat (she's not much of a breakfast eater). I decided to just make some grits for me. Lizzy Jo came out and asked for cereal. I got some for her. My contractions started coming on stronger and more frequently. Around 7:20 a.m. I decided to start timing my contractions. They were 40-80 seconds long and were coming pretty much exactly every two minutes. After 5 contractions like this, I texted Dave at the meeting to let him know that I might need him to come home early. Charly had finally claimed my grits for herself and I had lost my appetite so I never ate breakfast.
Less than 10 minutes after texting Dave that he might need to come home early, my contractions were demanding all of my attention to deal with them. I'd lean on the counter in the kitchen and breathe, unable to respond to the girls in any meaningful way. And I wasn't able to do much for them between contractions because of the frequency. I called Dave and told him to come home. After that, I turned on a TV show for the girls and headed to my bedroom. I wanted counter pressure on my knees, so I headed to our bed to kneel on it during contractions. After each contraction I tried to get things together for the hospital and get myself dressed. But, again, I wouldn't make much progress before another one hit.
Dave arrived home at 8 a.m. and I got in the shower to labor in the water for a while. At this point we had to address part of our preparations that had gone awry. Dave's parents live in Mesquite and we had planned on them watching our girls when it came time to go to the hospital. However, their family was visited with the flu this weekend! We had been hoping that the bug would pass before I went into labor, but since that wasn't the case, we had to decide if we were going to ask them to watch the girls still or if we should call someone else. We decided that it was better to safeguard against those yucky germs and find someone else. However, it was the weekend right after school got out and we knew that a lot of our friends were out of town. Also, some of our best friends had family in town because their kids were speaking in church. So Dave called a bunch more people to see if they could watch the girls on such short notice. Between calls he was getting stuff into the car. After a few calls he found someone who said we could bring them by on our way to the hospital. This seemed doable when he arranged it at 8:23, 20 minutes after getting into the shower. While laboring in the shower, I knelt on a shower chair for counter pressure on my knees. During the peak of the contraction I would ease up off of my knees and hold myself up with just my arms so that I could totally relax my belly and pelvis. But I hated doing it! I just wanted that pressure on my knees. This is how I have handled labor with all of my babies. I would breathe slowly in and then say "Ooooooooopeeeeeeeeen" in a low tone as I was breathing out. I also used the mantra, "My baby and I are working together." Sometimes I said it to Joey: "You are working and I'm working."
I had asked Dave to turn up the temperature on the water heater so that I could shower as long as I needed. Laboring in water had really helped me during my labors with Lizzy and Charly. I had labored in water for 1.5 hours with Charly and several hours with Lizzy. But only 10 minutes after arranging for the babysitter, I was daunted by the thought
of eventually getting out, getting dressed, and driving to the hospital, let alone getting the girls ready. My contractions were just so intense. When I recognized this feeling, I told Dave I didn't think we'd have time to get the girls ready so that we could drop them off. We needed to go! That brought on another 10 minutes of trying to find a babysitter who could come to us! At 8:33, I got out and Dave helped me dress. Then we headed out to the garage, although I didn't want to sit down in the car until right before the babysitter arrived. Dave went inside to tell the girls that a babysitter was coming over and I knelt on the garage floor during contractions!
When he came back I told him, "WE NEED TO GO NOW!" We got in the car and waited on the street until the babysitter drove up. We didn't even stay to talk to her as she got out of her car. It was 8:50. We called the labor and delivery unit on our way to the hospital to let them know we were coming and to call my doctor. But they didn't answer. We parked in front of the emergency entrance because it was the weekend and Dave brought me a wheelchair. I answered a few questions to check in, then a nurse came and wheeled me upstairs while Dave finished the rest of the intake questions and parked the car. At 9:00 I was in my labor and delivery room and moved onto the bed. The nurse got a monitoring strip around me and got the Hep-lock in. Then she checked me and I was already dilated to 7 cm! Before this point, I had been verbally very confident that we needed to go to the hospital, but there had been a teeny, tiny doubt in my mind that I was really progressing this fast. I was worried that I had just not been handling the labor as well as I had with my earlier pregnancies. Basically, I was afraid of being told that I was a big baby! So I was glad that I was making progress.
The nurse mentioned that she hadn't been able to get a hold of my doctor, and this was a worry to me. I really didn't think that I was going as fast as I really was, but I also wanted to see the reassuring face of my doctor and feel like "the plan" was being followed. Dave arrived up to the room by 9:10. He saw that I was sitting up at the head of the bed. The back of the bed was raised pretty high, so I was sitting, but with my legs straight out in front of my with no way to get counter pressure. I was also in so much pain that I couldn't move myself. So he immediately offered to help me move to the foot of the bed where I could sit with my legs down and have him push on my knees. He also reminded me to relax my face, hands, and legs. "They're not doing anything today, they can relax." He is such a good coach! We did this for 4-5 contractions. During the contractions in the car and in the hospital, I had started feeling major pressure and my moans were starting to get the "pushy" sound to them, like my body was pushing on its own. More than once, after a contraction, I asked Dave and the nurse, "Why is this happening so fast?" The nurse said, "Because your baby wants to be born!" With a really strong contraction, my water broke and squirted all over Dave! It relieved the pressure that I had been feeling and Dave, the nurse, and I laughed for a second over the shock of it. But then I thought, "Oh crap, here we go!" Charly had been born within 15-20 minutes after my doctor broke my water with her.
At this point I asked to get up and use the bathroom after the next contraction. I was afraid that my bladder would be full and act as a cushion to the baby, as it had done with my labor with Charly. I wanted to get what I thought was an inevitable awful bathroom break out of the way so that my baby could continue to move down. However, the nurse wisely said that it was just the baby pressing on my bladder that I could feel. She didn't want me to have the baby in the bathroom! And looking back, she was totally right. I hadn't had a single thing to drink that morning, and I'd visited the bathroom SEVERAL times during my early labor as my body was trying to get rid of everything! During this time I expressed my fear that Dr. Ofori wouldn't make it to the birth. But the nurse (who really was great) said not to worry about it, she had delivered plenty of babies and knew what to do. [I yelled at her at some point during the labor. She was having a hard time getting any kind of reading on the fetal monitor because Joey was so low and she was adjusting it during a contraction. I screamed at her to stop! But she was totally cool with it and took the monitor off soon after that. She really was a great nurse.]
Soon after this, Dr. Ofori arrived! They had been able to contact him, and fortunately anywhere in Mesquite is about 10 minutes away from just about anywhere else. He started prepping for the delivery, then said he wanted to check me after the next contraction. I HATE lying down during labor! But I lay down, and he announced that I was complete! I had gone from 7 cm to 10 cm in 25 minutes. And it was time to push! I had been moaning through contractions for quite a while. I tried to keep my tones low so that I could stay in control, but it was so hard! Each time I realized that I was getting higher and wailing, I would immediately say "Loooooow" in a low tone. But as I was almost ready to push and then when I started pushing, I really can only describe my voice as screaming. I felt totally out of control. I screamed through a contraction and really only pushed a little bit because I wasn't able to focus. Dr. Ofori said after it that I needed to harness that energy instead of releasing it as sound. They never told me to hold my breath or counted for me. But during the next contraction I held my breath for about half of it, pushing as hard as I could. I felt the ring of fire, but instead of a ring of fire it felt like a line of fire extending from my butt to my urethra! I started to scream part way through that contraction. Then the doctor and the nurse said that I had to move back down to the end of the bed. I had been crawling backwards on the bed without realizing it! This behavior really doesn't reflect well on me as someone who had practiced natural birthing techniques and had delivered Charly in a much calmer manner.
I moved back down the bed and pushed through a third contraction. This contraction went on and on and on. I pushed and pushed, with everyone telling me that his head was almost out, almost there, almost there, then it was out! One more push during this same long contraction, and he was here! Joey was born at 9:34 a.m. His umbilical cord was wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet, which really impressed my doctor! He mentioned it a couple of times. After they took it off his wrist, they handed him to me for skin-to-skin, where he stayed for more than an hour. He was pretty quiet, not crying but making little grunt noises. After a few minutes of snuggling, I breastfed him and he latched like a champ! He's been a great nurser and sleeper so far (He's got all the difficult stuff down pat!), and we love him with all our hearts!