The delivery

My labor experience did not go exactly as I had hoped, but does it ever? I can’t say I regret any of our decisions because everything turned out wonderfully and for the most part I got the labor I had envisioned. But I did learn a lot about labor that I had never heard or read about before. I’ll try not to get too graphic in my account, so read on if you’d like to know how my labor progressed.

2:00 am – I was just about to fall asleep (thanks pregnancy insomnia) when I felt a sudden gush. My water? I rushed to the bathroom and confirmed it was indeed amniotic fluid. My mind started racing – oh my goodness, this is it! We’re two weeks early, but here it is. Wait I’m not having contractions! This puts a wrinkle in things. When your water breaks before labor starts it’s called premature rupture of membranes (PROM) and generally the hospital will want you to deliver within 24 hours to prevent infection. I had done my research on this beforehand and I knew the scientific literature did not support such a stringent timeline, so I let my husband know my water had broken and I was going back to bed to get some sleep. He was a little shocked at my nonchalant attitude but I explained we would be made to stay if we went into the hospital now and we might as well try to get some sleep.

3:00 am – After tossing and turning I finally give up on the idea of sleep, I was just too excited. I had also had a few contractions and another gush of fluid so I called my mom in California and let her know the baby was coming early. For the next hour we worked on getting her flight changed so she could make it to Florida in time for the birth.

6:00 am – After spending a couple hours doing last minute preparations (feeding the animals, cleaning the house, checking and rechecking the hospital bags) we decided to head into the hospital. By that time I was also having bloody show (the mucus plug was being shed in preparation for birth). Before getting trapped in the hospital though I made my husband drive me to a diner where I indulged in a big tasty breakfast. I sat on a towel the whole time because I was still gushing fluid periodically. By the end of breakfast the contractions were beginning to hurt a little.

Triage

7:00 am – We were admitted to the labor and delivery triage center and the nurse checked my cervix. I was 1.5 centimeters dilated and they confirmed my membranes had ruptured. The doctor on call came in and suggested we start Pitocin to get the labor moving quicker but my husband and I were adamant on waiting. We let him know we were trying for a natural birth, if possible, and would like to wait on any interventions until medically necessary. The doctor seemed to respect our wishes and told me to get up and moving as soon as they moved us into a labor room.

9:00 am – We were moved into a private labor room and we went about getting comfortable. I started my playlist I created just for the occasion, I got into my own comfortable nightgown and I accepted the medicine ball the nurse offered me to bounce around on. The contractions had increased a bit in frequency, but not much so I began walking and dancing and bouncing around the room much to my husband’s amusement.

6:00 pm – It’s a big timespan to skip between 9 am and 6 pm but not much had happened other than usual labor stuff. My contractions were coming quicker and more painfully, but I had only dilated to 3 centimeters. I was getting exhausted from lack of sleep and my Bell’s palsy was starting to make the left side of my face hurt pretty bad, but I was still dancing around the room and having a good time, all things considered. The doctor had come in and let us know that most people at this point in a PROM labor would be receiving antibiotics intravenously to protect against the chance of infection, but out of respect for our wishes to stay as natural as possible he was going to forgo them at this point and just have the nurses monitor me for fever more frequently. At this point he reports that both Kenji and I look to be doing fantastically and no intervention is needed.   At 5:30 my husband went to pick my mom up from the airport. At 6:00 they arrive and for a few minutes my excitement at seeing my mom makes me forget the pain of labor.

The author breathes through a contraction

The author breathes through a contraction

6 pm – 2 am – During this time the labor begins to get rougher. My exhaustion made it harder and harder to breathe through the contractions and the Bell’s palsy was really affecting my ability to concentrate. My nurses were very sweet and turned a blind eye as I ate the snacks we smuggled into the hospital. They know I needed fuel to keep that marathon going. As we neared the 24 hour mark of labor I turned off the music and got into the labor tub. The relief was instant, but not long lasting. I stayed in the tub for about an hour, but as the pain increased I began to shake uncontrollably and needed to get dry and warm. I curled up in the fetal position on the bed and my husband curled around me coaching me through breathing as the pain and exhaustion took over. He kept me going for another hour or so, but then I hit a wall. I had been laboring nearly 24 hours and hadn’t slept in about 36 so I was quickly running out of gas. The nurse checked me and announced I was only dilated to 4.5 centimeters.  This sealed the deal for me. I knew I would never have the strength to push if I didn’t get some rest so I let my husband know I needed an epidural.  Going into labor I had wanted to avoid the epidural, but I had never written it off completely so although I felt a little disappointed it was hardly a heartbreaking decision. I should mention I was not against an epidural because I wanted to feel all the pain of childbirth, but rather I knew there was an increased chance of having to have other interventions like Pitocin when having an epidural because you are unable to get up and move and labor will often slow or halt completely. My nurse confirmed that this might happen, but also told us in her experience many women go on to dilate quickly once their bodies relax.

2 am – 3 am – We requested the epidural and the anesthesiologist arrived in about thirty minutes to administer it. During this wait time, I became convinced I had made the right decision because I was quickly losing my ability to breathe through contractions and I started to feel like I might pass out from the pain. My body was shaking uncontrollably again and I could feel my body giving up. The epidural itself was quick and easy and not at all what I expected when I thought of a needle being stuck in my back. There was very little pain and the effects were almost instant. I found the crippling contractions beginning to ebb and for the first time in many hours my sore muscles began to relax.

Dad gets a little shut eye

Dad gets a little shut eye

3 am – 6 am – We all slept! My husband, my mother and I were all able to finally gain some much needed sleep thanks to the epidural. Every thirty minutes my nurse came in and gently guided me onto the opposite side I had been laying on and stuck what is known as “the peanut” between my legs to keep my hips open and the labor progressing. The peanut is basically a peanut-shaped medicine ball. It was pretty cumbersome even being numb from the epidural and my nurse told me women who haven’t had epidurals cannot usually tolerate it. For me, however it was fantastic. At 6 am the nurse rechecked my cervix and announced I was fully dilated and ready to push! The moment had arrived!!!

6 am – 8:26 am – The moment was longer than I had anticipated. My nurse explained how we were going to push: when I felt a contraction I was to begin pushing as she counted to ten. With each contraction we would do this three times and then I would rest between contractions. It sounded easy enough. The epidural had begun to wear off and I chose not to increase the dosage because I wanted to have as much feeling as possible to push. Although this meant I felt the pain, I am happy I made this decision because pushing is hard and for me, it did not feel that instinctive. The urge to push was very instinctive, but actually knowing how to push was not. I think the first hour was spent just learning how to effectively push. After that I got a rhythm down and things began to finally move. This stage of labor was the most surprising for me. Despite everything I read and was told, this was the only part of labor I felt completely unprepared for. Here were some of the gems I took away from this:

  • As I said, pushing was not as instinctive as I thought it would be
  • I wasn’t prepared for how hard I would have to push – the force was unbelievable
  • I didn’t realize how I would strain nearly every muscle in my body pushing
  • I was frustrated the entire time because the nurses kept saying they could see him and he was moving, but what I didn’t realize was how slowly he was moving
  • By the time he finally entered the world – 8:26 am – I was at a point where I could hardly recognize what was happening. The last hour or so of pushing was like having an out-of-body experience. I was there but not fully aware of what was happening.
  • All pain cleared instantly when I felt his body slip out and they placed him on my chest. I didn’t feel the placenta come out or the doctor sewing me up at all. I was enveloped in a haze of endorphins and emotions unlike anything I have ever experienced before.
  • Baby Kenji has arrived

    Baby Kenji has arrived

The labor ended up being 30 hours and although it was not as smooth as I would have hoped for, I am grateful for all the things that went well. In retrospect I came very close to having the birth I wanted.

  • I avoided having antibiotics and inducement meds like Pitocin administered
  • I avoided a C-section
  • I was unable to use the birth bar – a bar placed over the bed that you can hold onto so you can squat while giving birth – because of the epidural
  • I was able to experience a vaginal birth as I had hoped for
  • And most important of all, our son was born healthy

Post labor was also a surprise to me. For those who have given birth none of these will be news to you, but to anyone who has not let me fill you in on some of the things that surprised me about the post-birth experience.

  • The nurses will give you a pelvic “massage” every fifteen to twenty minutes for a couple hours after giving birth. Don’t be deceived by the word massage, this is more on par with torture. They push down on your uterus to help it contract and ensure it is contracting as it should be. No one had ever told me about this and I was not happy about it. Thank goodness I was holding my son; otherwise I would have been tempted to throw a few punches to stop these painful intrusions. They also checked my private parts for swelling and to see how much blood I was passing.
  • I knew there would be bleeding after birth, but the amount was pretty shocking to me. Luckily it had slowed considerably for me within two days.
  • Sitting and lying in bed hurt. I found that I was so sensitive I needed to keep a soft pillow under me just to bear the pain. Without the pillow it felt like I was being forced to sit upon the hardest surface ever after a severe beating of my nether regions.
  • The nurses help you with your first couple of bathroom trips. And when I say help you, I mean it. Because of the epidural my legs were wobbly so two nurses all but carried me to the bathroom, they helped spray me down after I urinated because you can’t wipe, one held me upright while the other helped me step into the mesh panties and GIANT pad getup they give you and then they assisted me back to bed. Normally I would have been mortified to have two strangers all up close and personal with my privates, but after giving birth you lose all sense of modesty.
  • I felt like I had severe whiplash. The pushing made my neck and upper back muscles so sore it took my breath away when I moved too suddenly. Luckily this began to ease within the first 48 hours.
  • My Bell’s palsy became unbelievably painful. Prior to giving birth there had been very little pain associated with my condition, but post labor it became so awful it took my mind off the pain between my legs. My guess is all the pushing strained the already weakened muscles on the left side of my face. For nearly a week after giving birth my face felt as though it had been pummeled and my left ear developed hearing issues. Loud sounds became excruciating to my left ear (not good with a crying newborn to take care of) and although that has cleared up I fear I have some hearing loss in that ear now. I’ll have to get my hearing checked after the Bell’s palsy clears completely.

This first labor experience was surreal. No matter how much I think about it I still can’t believe it all happened. And over a week later I am still staring at our son in pure amazement that we created this perfect little human being. Pregnancy and labor were not my favorite experiences, but I would happily endure it all again to have the miracle of creating such a precious and beautiful life.

And with the pregnancy and labor behind us, I now look forward to watching my son grow and thrive over the years. I can’t wait to see him meet all the milestones and watch his personality develop. We have definitely entered a new stage of life and I do believe it will be the best stage of our life.

happy kenji

She Arrives

If you read my previous post, I can now confirm my suspicions were correct; I was in labor. From the moment I awoke I was having contractions. They started sporadically spaced between 8 – 12 minutes apart but over the hours they began to quicken and regulate. I spent the entire day laboring at home, waiting for my contractions to get closer together so we could go to the hospital to meet our little girl. We created a labor tradition by going to a local diner to indulge in one last yummy breakfast before the birth. With my son we stopped at a greasy spoon on our way to the hospital because I knew I wouldn’t be eating much of anything once we were admitted. With my daughter I was just tired of laboring at home and focusing on the pain so the excursion was a nice and tasty distraction. It was our last meal out together as a family of three.

And in an odd twist of fate, my mom happened to be flying in that evening for the birth. She had booked her ticket literally months before, choosing to fly in five days early because my son had been born early. Little did she know she had selected the absolute perfect time to fly in. We went to pick her up at 6 pm, with me now contracting every 6-7 minutes. We stopped to grab food, got home and ate, and were headed to the hospital by 9 pm when my contractions had jumped to every 3 minutes. I’m still amazed at how perfectly it worked out for my mom.

My labor coaches

This labor was so unlike my first labor I can hardly believe it now as I write about it. This go around I had a textbook labor, everything progressed on its own and in a timely manner. Since my son’s labor started with broken water but no contractions, I spent more than 30 hours at the hospital, mostly trying to get labor to progress. But since I was already contracting well by the time I got to the hospital this go around, my experience was so different and so much quicker. At 9:30 pm we were put in the observation room to monitor my contractions and by 10:30 pm we were officially admitted and shown to a birthing suite. The next hour was spent getting labs done and IV ports placed and then I was finally unhooked from all the machines and allowed to roam. While the nurses filled my labor tub I opted to walk around the room, stopping frequently as the contractions became harsher and harsher. And as soon as the tub was ready I climbed in and spent nearly an hour breathing and squirming through the contractions that were only 2.5 – 3 minutes apart by then.

Contraction support

Around 12:30 am the pain was becoming too much for me and I began to shake and lose focus of my breathing technique. I opted to get out of the tub and requested an epidural. Luckily for me the anesthesiologist was already in the vicinity and was in my room within 15 minutes.  Within 30 minutes I was feeling much better and was able to relax for the first time in about 20 hours. The epidural didn’t quite work correctly though and the right side of my body never fully numbed. I could still feel the contractions, albeit much less harshly. They offered to get the anesthesiologist back to try and fix it, but I actually preferred to continue to feel the contractions so I could tell how I was progressing.

And progress I did! Within 3 hours I went from 5 cm dilated to 10. With my epidural not being 100 percent effective I definitely could feel the pressure of my baby moving down into position. I contacted the nurse about 20 minutes before I was scheduled to be checked again because the pressure was so intense I knew I must be fully dilated. After confirming this my nurse told me we could do a couple pushes as we waited for my doctor to come in and she got me into position and had me bear down.

“Okay stop! She’s almost out. Let me get the doctor in here first,” she told me. My reaction? Are you kidding? One push and you’re telling me she’s already almost out? Both my mom and husband confirmed it. They were about as incredulous as me since they had both been with me for my son’s birth and struggled alongside me as I pushed for nearly 2.5 hours with him.

The doctor rushed in a few minutes later and literally one more push was all it took. I watched amazed as my little girl entered the world, overcome with emotion. This experience was something I never had with my son. The long labor and hours of pushing had left me so physically spent I hardly recognized when he was actually born. I was in a mental fog and just remember them placing him on my chest. With this birth I was able to reach down and help place her myself. I had no mental fog and just felt so in the moment. It was an amazing way to end my pregnancy and labor experiences.

Newborn

Our little girl, Theadora (Thea) was born August 17, 2017 at 4:38 am. She weighed 6 pounds and 10 ounces and was 19 ¾ inches long.

Thea

And as I write this I am happy to say the recovery process has also been completely different and so much easier. I didn’t need any pain medications after birth and although I won’t be taking any long walks downtown or running around the playground with my toddler anytime soon, I’m already weeks ahead of where I was physically with my son.

I feel so lucky to have had such a positive birth experience. And now my family feels complete and perfect. My son has taken to his little sister even better than we had anticipated and I can’t wait to see their relationship grow and develop over the years.

First family photo

Grandparents are awesome

I’d like to take a post to say how amazing and awesome grandparents are. The last seven weeks have been made so much easier and happier with all the help from Kenji’s wonderful grandparents.

My mom had already planned on being with us for the birth of Kenji and staying nearly four weeks, but when our little boy decided to come early she had to scramble to get to Florida in time. I let her know at about 1:00 am her time that my water had broke and by 6:00 am she was headed to the airport to get to us. She made it in time and was able to assist with my labor and watch her second grandson enter the world.

Nana meets Kenji

Nana got to stay with us for five weeks and she was a godsend. Not only did she help with all the day to day chores but she also helped me adjust to being a new mother. Anytime I had a question about what was “normal” or how to do something she was there to assist. I can’t tell you how wonderful that was especially in the first several days when as a new mother you feel like you’ve fallen into a dream world where everything is different and yet familiar. The lack of sleep and rapidly changing hormone levels wreak havoc on new mothers so having a steady and calm figure around was fantastic.

Nana and Kenji

The morning nana flew out, my dad (papa) flew in. Papa had the huge task of driving me and Kenji all the way from Florida to Wisconsin. Papa drove the entire way allowing me the freedom to comfort Kenji when needed and get in small catnaps which any new mother knows are essential to survival. Papa got us to our new home in just two days and then was able to spend the next several days exploring my new neighborhood with me. I cannot imagine how onerous the road trip would have been without his help!

Papa and Kenji at Parthenon

And then three days after Papa flew home to California, Kenji got visitors all the way from Japan! His ojiichan (grandpa) and obaachan (grandma) had come to see their first grandchild. They are currently still here with us and have been amazing in getting our new house put together. Obaachan has been helping organize and unpack boxes while ojiichan is wonderful at entertaining Kenji and holding him when he sleeps to give me time to get things done around the house. I think what I’ll miss most, however, are the delicious meals obaachan makes for us every day. Every morning I wake to wonderful nutritious breakfasts and every evening we enjoy a new Japanese dish. It really has spoiled us.

Ojiichan and Obaachan

Having a baby and moving across the country within several weeks of delivery is not been easy, but having such loving and wonderful grandparents around to help has made it so much easier on us. We cannot express how grateful we are to them and how happy we are they got to spend such wonderful time with their grandson. We cannot wait to see them all again soon to make more wonderful family memories!

Hospital or birthing center?

delivery

Before I even became pregnant I was convinced I wanted to give birth at our local birth center. I liked the idea of being able to have control over the birth process and the comfort of a cozy home as opposed to a sterile hospital.

And then I met with a new doctor for a pre-conception consultation appointment. Dr. D won me over within minutes of our meeting. He was funny, respectful, honest and informal. He asked me questions and let me ask my own and I never once felt he was rushing or trying to get to the next patient quickly. I left that appointment feeling positive and reassured.

When we became pregnant I told my husband I wanted to start going to Dr. D, initially at least. Then if we decided we wanted to switch to the birth center we could always do that. Well my husband quickly became a fan of Dr. D as well and it wasn’t until my 20th week that I began to reconsider the birth center option as opposed to the hospital birth. By then I had done a lot of reading and research on the birth process and was determined to have as little or no intervention if possible. I’m not opposed to epidurals and c-sections at all, I just would like to attempt labor without them if possible.  I also had decided I wanted to have a squatting birth (standing or sitting in a squatting position when pushing) as opposed to lying flat on my back as it seems more natural and can increase your pelvic opening up to 30% making for an easier delivery.

So at our last appointment we decided to talk to Dr. D about our preferences and see what he suggested. To my relief he was pretty much on the same page as us. He reassured us that as long as my pregnancy continued to progress healthily there was no reason I could not have a birth center or home birth. He completely understood our desire to have as natural a birth as possible and was very encouraging.

When I asked if the hospital allows squatting births I was so relieved to find out they do. They use what is known as a squatting bar attached to the end of a bed so you can pull yourself up and squat at the edge of the bed for delivery. My husband also asked Dr. D what his opinion was on intervention medications (like Pitocin) as many doctors or hospitals will offer them to patients if a certain amount of time has gone by without any development. Dr. D’s take on it is the only reason to use such medicines is if either mommy or baby are in medical distress. This was also a huge relief for me and my husband because we want to make sure that if interventions do occur it’s only because it is either necessary or I change my mind mid-delivery and ask for them.

There were other positives as well with the hospital. Dr. D said it was no problem and actually almost standard protocol now to delay the cutting of the cord so the baby would receive the last nutrients from the placenta. He also said my son could be placed in my arms as soon as he was born for immediate bonding and skin to skin contact and the cleaning and measuring of him could be delayed. These were also important points to us.

Dr. D told us to talk it over together when we got home to decide where and how we wanted to have our son. He made it clear that he believed we could have the birth we wanted either at the hospital or at the birth center and that either decision would be appropriate; it really came down to how we felt. He also encouraged us to write a birth plan so regardless of where we ended up everyone would know what we wanted out of the experience.

After we left the appointment we went out for lunch and discussed our options. The pros and cons were debated and in the end we both felt comfortable with sticking to the hospital and Dr. D’s care. The main things we want out of the birth experience can be accomplished in the hospital and with our favorite doctor so we’ve decided this is the right choice for us.

I feel so relieved to have finalized our plans and to be happy with our decisions. I spent hours reading medical journals and books in preparation but it was time I feel was well spent because it allowed me and my husband to make informed decisions. We can’t predict how this labor will end up going, but at least we feel we’ve done our homework and will go into it with an idea of what we want. There is an added bonus to this experience as well. All the time spent researching and discussing birth has made me more confidant in my ability to give birth and has largely calmed my fears about the process. I recommend it to any first-time parent. After all, we fear things we don’t understand so the more information you have on birth the less it will worry you.

I’d love to hear about your birthing experiences. Whether you had a hospital birth, birth center birth or home birth, feel free to let us know what you loved (or didn’t) about it. I’ll be sure to let you all know if we end up happy with our experience after the fact.

An unexpected hospital stay

My smooth pregnancy hit a little hiccup on Wednesday this week. On Tuesday morning I began feeling a tight ache in the middle of my back on the left side. I figured I had overdone the housework the day before, but as the day progressed the ache continued to grow both in size and intensity. That night I toyed with the idea of going into urgent care, but I was exhausted from a ten-hour work day and preferred to sleep.

On Wednesday I began to suspect kidney stones, because I had experienced that horrible malady once before in my life. But we had interviews scheduled at work and I was determined to get through the day or at least the last interview at noon. I was able to keep my cool throughout the interview (although it was a struggle to sit still) and as soon it was done I headed out to the labor and delivery triage.

Once there an ultrasound quickly diagnosed kidney stones as the culprit behind my intense backache. The stones were small and I was told I would be likely to pass them naturally, however, being pregnant added a new dimension to the situation. Normally I would have been sent home with pain killers to pass the stones but because of my little boy they needed me to stay overnight so we could both be monitored.

So for 24 hours I was pumped full of liquids and kept running to the restroom every 30 or 40 minutes. The pain was manageable though, which was a huge relief because my last encounter with kidney stones was excruciating. I was able to decline all pain meds while in the hospital, which made me very happy. I haven’t even taken Tylenol throughout this pregnancy so I really didn’t want to dose our son with Oxycontin if unnecessary.

There were some silver linings to this trip. I got to stay in the hospital wing where I will be staying after our son is born (unless we opt for a birthing center, which is still a large possibility) and found the staff and care to be fantastic. I also got another glimpse of my boy when they did the ultrasound on my kidneys and he is looking more and more like a real baby now. He even stuck his tongue out at us! They’re estimating his weight to be about 1 pound 3 ounces, which is still small I know, but seems huge to me. It takes a baby over half the pregnancy to gain one pound so it feels like a major milestone. I also learned that our boy’s sitting right on my bladder which explains why I am constantly running to restroom.

Today I was able to work a half day at work and I’m sure by the end of the weekend I’ll be as good as new. Although this was not a fun week by any means, I am happy with how everything has turned out and am grateful for wonderful nurses and my great doctor. We’re hoping this is the only bout of stones throughout my pregnancy but prepared if they should occur again (which is common during pregnancy). I’m sure there are plenty of you mothers out there who have experienced this during pregnancy. If you want to share your story add it in our comments section below.

kidney stones and pregnancy

The author’s glamorous hospital selfie.