Warning: Childbirth details ahead! (I will try to keep it as PG as possible :-)
Tuesday, Jan. 5, 6-8 pm: Oh, the irony of it all. During what was supposed to be the first of three birthing classes, I became very uncomfortable and was in pain. I couldn't find a way to sit where I felt OK when the "cramping" was happening. All of this was occurred while we discussed the stages of labor and what labor pains feel like. I compared what I was feeling to what the instructor said and felt confident that I wasn't in labor. The joke was on me, of course!
Wednesday, Jan. 6, 8:45 am: I had the same cramping pains after class and all through the night, plus some spotting in the morning, so I called the doctor's office as soon as they opened. By that time I was already at work because we were doing some testing in the pilot plant and I was supposed to be learning a new process. The doctor wanted me to come in for a check, just to be on the safe side.
I saw the OB at noon, and she sent me to the Labor and Deliver triage because I was slightly dilated and they wanted to see if my "cramps" were contractions. Which, of course, they were. They got an IV going, gave me several shots and some oral meds and seemed to slow the contractions. Dr. Lomax (the most senior doctor in the practice) was on call and kept telling me that to be where I was I had to have been feeling these pains for a long time. I'm still not sure I believe him, but that doesn't change the outcome.
At 4 pm we had an ultrasound where Tim and I were ecstatic to find out we were having a girl. After 3 other ultrasounds where she refused to let us know her gender, we were making plans to share our good news with family and friends. They decided to keep me overnight, even though the contractions had slowed, just to be sure that they could monitor me closely.
By 6:30 pm, I was in a room and eating dinner. They assigned me to a high risk pregnancy nurse (not a Labor and Delivery nurse) and I was settling in for the night. Except that the contractions seemed to pick up in intensity. The monitor wasn't reading them correctly because they had me laying on my side, so I had Tim start to record them on paper. They were 2-3 minutes apart! (We knew from our first class that that meant something was up for sure.)
At 7 pm, Nurse Nancy (from the triage area) came in to check on me before she went home at the end of her shift. She noticed that I wasn't doing very well and had them change me to a labor and delivery nurse. She also decided to do an exam. I was 5 cm dilated. She called Dr. Lomax and gently let us know that it was very likely that I'd be delivering our little girl yet that evening. I made sure that she told Dr. Lomax that I wanted an epidural -- that seemed rather important as I got farther along! I also had a few minutes to freak out and be scared because we knew the baby wasn't very big yet, and then another contraction came and I had to focus. Nurse Joan took over for the evening shift and began to set up for the birth. She told Tim not to worry, we had plenty of time, but that she liked to get everything in place far in advance. Looking back, she was probably rushing to get everything together, but she was playing it cool for our sakes!
Around 7:30 pm (here is where things get a bit blurry to me as I wasn't paying much attention to the clock at this point!), Joan mentioned that the next thing I needed to tell her was when I felt like I needed to have a bowel movement. "Oh, I already felt that a couple of contractions ago", was my answer. Remember, we've only learned one way of breathing from the one class and I have no idea that I'm about ready to push! During the next contraction Nurse Joan insisted that I not push and taught me to breathe with little huffing breaths to resist pushing. When that was over I asked why I couldn't push when I wanted to so badly. She said "you are only 8 cm dilated" which made sense to me, not enough room to get baby out yet. And then she said "and your doctor isn't here yet." Well, who needs him, I thought? Let's get this show on the road!
Soon after that Dr. Lomax and the anesthesiologist showed up and soon the room was filled with people. Dr. Lomax was brought up to speed and in between contractions (still not letting me push) the anesthesiologist laid out my options for pain relief. Too little time for an epidural, but the spinal meant that if I had to have a C-section, I'd have to go all the way under. How was I supposed to make that sort of decision in the minute I had between contractions? Finally decided for the spinal as things were incredibly painful.
8:00 pm: My labor is complete and I'm fully dilated, so Dr. Lomax and Nurse Joan are letting me push. The only problem, I don't know to hold my breath with the push. So, they correct me and I get down to business. Dr. Lomax decides that there isn't even enough time for the spinal block and that we can push this baby out real quick. Tim can see the head of baby, and keeps telling me how cool it all is. There is no rest between the contractions, one starts as soon as the other ends. They've put me on oxygen and it's all I can do to release one breath, gulp another and push as hard as I possibly can. Dr. Lomax is cheering me on, and with one last push, Stella gushes out. It is 8:09 pm. There is a moment of complete silence, which I know isn't right. So, I ask if she is OK. Her umbilical cord was very short and ruptured as she was born. Dr. Lomax was a rock star and clamped it off really quickly so she didn't lose too much blood. Her hemoglobin levels were OK after birth so she didn't suffer because of it.
Someone asks Tim what her name is. He looks at me and says, "Stella?" We haven't really discussed the names on our list. We only knew she was going to be a girl 4 hours earlier! "Stella" I agree and there she is, our little Stella Suzanne.
I realize that the room is full of people, and there is a NICU team working on Stella. She is 4 lb 6.9 oz and 17.5 inches long. She scores an 8 on her Apgar after 1 minute and a 9 after 5 minutes. They bring her over to me all bundled up and with a silly little hat on. The nurse explains that they are taking her to the NICU and that she is breathing on her own and doing well. Tim goes with her to help her get settled. Meanwhile, Dr. Lomax is trying to stitch me up. The quick birth meant that my body didn't really get ready for her to pass through the birth canal and there is some damage to repair. The adrenaline rush has left me shaky and I can't keep my legs from trembling. They decide all would go better in the OR, and I will finally get that spinal block. All in all, the OR stitching takes as long as the birthing process and I am finally in recovery at 11pm.
Feeling returns to my legs and I get to go see Stella in the NICU by 1 am. While in recovery, Tim rejoins me and we make calls to family and friends, letting them know the exciting news. Their reactions range from incredulous to ecstatic. Stella Suzanne has arrived!