Monday, September 28, 2009

The Birth Story again (Kate's version)

[This is so long I could've done chapters. Oh well. I think this is one of those times where the blog is more for me than anyone else - my spot to record certain things. So, I know this is more detail than anyone other than me wants to read, but at least there are a few pictures for you at the end, right?]

As much as I want to record the story of June's birth while it's still vivid in my mind, I've also been putting off sitting down to write this, because I'm not sure where to begin or what to include, or how to describe what was one of the most amazing life experiences I've ever had.

I think a little bit of background is in order here, but first let me skip to the ending to say that June's was a natural birth delivery. As in, entirely unmedicated. (Perhaps "natural birth" is a bit of a freighted term, to the extent that it inadvertently implies that any other birth experience is "unnatural" in some kind of negative way. That is not my belief, so don't take my use of the term here to mean that.) My views on natural birth prior to June's arrival were basically this:

1) I was intrigued by it and curious to know if the incredible high people described as having had after natural birth really existed.

2) I was a believer that there is too much unnecessary medical intervention in women's birth experiences in the modern American hospital setting, and that there are often negative consequences of those interventions, including a domino effect of one intervention leading to another and so forth. A lot of that domino effect unfolded in textbook fashion during Georgia's birth, so I was interested in trying a different approach.

3) I wondered if I could do it, much in the same way that some people attempt running a marathon or climbing a mountain just to see if they can do it. I suppose birth is sort of an odd physical challenge to set one's sights on, but there was that element of motivation in my desire to try for a natural birth.

4) I was not hell bent on going for a natural birth but wanted to give it a try. If I decided somewhere along the way to go for the drugs, I certainly wasn't going to beat myself up about that choice.

Not to sidetrack this story too much further, but let me just clarify point #2. Of course I understand that there are many cases where medical intervention is not only necessary, but truly a godsend for mother and child, during both pregnancy and birth. Modern medicine can be a wonderful thing. Epidurals can be a wonderful thing. (In fact, I fondly remember during Georgia's birth immediately after I got the epidural thinking that it was the greatest invention ever.) Also, I am all for women having choices, whether that be to go for a home birth or to schedule a planned cesarean, I just wish that the medical establishment was more geared towards helping women make informed choices about (or during) birth, rather than pushing them down a certain path with little or no explanation.

But anyway, back to what happened the day that June was born.......

The eggplant we ate for dinner the night before must've worked, or maybe it was the combination of that with all of the other old wives' tales that we had tested, because at around 4:30 a.m. on Monday morning I started having contractions. I woke Joe to tell him that I thought it was all starting, but then we both attempted to keep sleeping. Between the discomfort of mild contractions coming about every 6-8 minutes, and the excitement of the baby finally coming, it was hard to sleep, but I knew that we'd both need the rest. I had read (or at least skimmed) a Bradley book, which basically emphasized total muscle relaxation and sort of giving into the pain, so that's what I tried to do. Water-based visualizations during each contraction seemed to help me to let my body just do its work, rather than tensing up and fighting against it, so I kept thinking of this plastic kiddie pool that we used with Georgia all summer long out on our concrete parking area (classy!), and the way that the water rushes over the edge when you push down the side to drain it. Each contraction was a wall of water that slowly climbed up the side of the kiddie pool until it reached the smooth plastic lip and flowed out and over on to the pavement and down the drain. Does this make sense at all? No? Okay, I guess you had to be there, either for the emptying of the kiddie pool or the contractions, I'm not sure which.

These contractions went on like this for several hours (most of the day, really), ever so slowly getting stronger and stronger, consistently remaining an average of 5 minutes apart, but never seeming to get particularly longer in length, which was the big change that we kept waiting for.

At breakfast with Georgia, I could still sit at the table and talk through the pain, but I'd have to wince and kind of fake a smile so as not to let on that something weird was happening. She's quite perceptive and empathetic - if you have a band aid on, she'll notice and look concerned, so she certainly did not need to be exposed to watching her mother in labor. Which is why we sent her to her aunt's for the day.

Around lunchtime, Joe and I decided to go pick up BLTs from Lula's. I could still walk and talk through the pain. Aside from intermittent contractions, I have to say that our walk up the boulevard was quite nice, because it occurred to me how rare it is that he and I have the chance to go for a walk together during the day, without a child to attend to, and without being at work. Surely it wasn't the first time in two years? But it felt like it, and it was also odd to realize then that it might be the last such opportunity for another two or more years. So we savored the walk.

Okay, sorry if this story is all out of order, but several weeks prior to my due date, we had interviewed and then hired a doula to provide assistance and guidance during the labor. So throughout the day, we occasionally called to update the doula on my progress or lack thereof. My understanding of what the doula's role was to be was that she wouldn't be with us for every minute of the labor, but that once things picked up, she'd come to our house to provide encouragement as well as pain relief techniques, like various positions or kinds of massage to try, and then she'd go to the hospital with us to continue to provide labor support and to help us translate the medical speak and understand our alternatives if we were faced with the need or desire for medical intervention. Having attended more than 100 births as a doula, she was also going to be there to provide insight about when we should go to the hospital, because one of my goals was to labor at home as long as possible for a few reasons. First, so that we wouldn't get turned away at the hospital door and told to come back later, which happens to a lot of people. Second, so that I could still move around, eat and drink, and be as comfortable as possible and avoid the aforementioned medical intervention domino effect. Third, so that I would not have an anesthesiologist in the next room. I mean, c'mon, if you're even at all thinking of trying to go for a natural birth, how are you supposed to stick it out when you know in the back of your head that the good stuff is only a call button away? I had the same goal of laboring at home as long as possible for Georgia's birth, too, but I really thought that having a doula there this time would help me last at home a little longer. I guess I'm someone who usually responds well to having a coach; I'm not the best self-motivator in certain circumstances. Joe was totally on board for the doula idea, too. I don't think he felt threatened or displaced by this woman at all. He knew he'd still be my main support but was happy to have the assistance of someone with so much more birthin' experience.

By late afternoon, we decided to call my parents to give them the heads up that I had gone into labor. They are all about the hospital visit for grandbabies, but they needed some lead time to make the drive from Missouri. I think this phone call was placed somewhere between 4 and 5 p.m., and at this point I was in increasing but still manageable pain and was really starting to have doubts about whether all of these contractions amounted to anything. I've never had Braxton Hicks contractions, so I didn't know for sure. Despite being four days past my due date, the fact that the strengthening contractions weren't getting longer made me wonder if the whole process was suddenly going to just end, and then I'd feel really dumb for having made my husband take the day off from work, and possibly having made my parents make an overnight trip for no reason. So, I was sitting there while Joe was on the phone with my mom, yelling out, "Make sure to tell her that it could all be a false alarm! And I'm sorry if that happens but we don't know! Okay? Tell her, okay?"

Around that same time, Joe called the doula again, and one of the things she recommended was that I have a glass of wine, because it might help me to get a little bit of sleep. She figured that at some point overnight we'd likely be heading to the hospital, but that any rest we could squeeze in now would be valuable. So, before dinner we headed out for a quick two block walk to Provenance to pick up a bottle of wine. By this point I was walking very slowly and being taken a bit more aback by the contractions. But you know, still able to wander in a wine and cheese shop without freaking out the proprietor by giving away the fact that his hugely pregnant looking patron was actually in labor. Oh, I've also skipped over the afternoon visit of the cable guy for whom I had to fake not being in labor. I think I'm a pretty good "everything's fine, I'm not really in labor!" faker, if I do say so myself.

Joe whipped up some pasta for dinner, and I ate a full meal. All day I had been following the doula's (and Joe's) advice to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and had been forcing down lemon-lime gatorade, even though I don't like that stuff so much. The doula had promised that, "hydrated tissue stretches better," so I wasn't about to run afoul of that advice.

For the sake of normalcy, Georgia was returned from my sister's place and we carried out her bedtime routine as usual and put her to bed between 7:30 and 8:00. Except that I was in and out of the room, because by that hour I was not doing so well at having contractions while sitting in a chair and not looking like I was in pain. So I came and went every few minutes as Joe got teeth brushed and pj's on, etc. I was in the room for stories and songs, though, with Georgia toddling around, and me feeling like this bedtime routine was suddenly interminable. It was a huge relief to have her off to bed, and I think Joe congratulated me on my performance.

After that point, I didn't leave our bedroom and bathroom until we eventually departed for the hospital. Around 9:00, my sister came over to spend the night in order to serve as the babysitter for (the now sleeping) Georgia in the likely event that we needed to leave the house before morning. When Joe answered the buzzer to let her in, I asked him to have her join us for a bit, for moral support, I guess. With each contraction, I was experiencing a lot of pain in my back. Even having been in labor once before, I can't say that I knew what contractions were "supposed" to feel like, but I was beginning to fear that this must be the dreaded back labor. Grrrreat...

For whatever reason I started taking care of last minute details, like packing the camera into our hospital bag and getting one of the incomplete cord blood donation forms filled out. Except that form was in my bag that I take to work, so by virtue of having to dig through the dumping ground that is my purse, I guess I got sidetracked into cleaning that out. Joe refers to this behavior of mine as "Jack Russell-ing." You know, like how a Jack Russell terrier can see a rabbit go down a hole and then become obsessed with it, even if it means standing by that hole for the next 12 hours. During this I came across the form for Miss Julie's music class and lamented that I had forgotten to sign Georgia up, and was it too late? Beth clearly thought I was nuts by this point and said she'd take care of it. Of course, all the while as this is going on, I'm having contractions about every 5 minutes. By that point, the thing that felt best was to stand at the edge of the bed, bend over at the waist, and pretty much yell and moan into a big pile of pillows with each contraction. I think I thought the pillows would muffle the sound and keep me from waking Georgia, who was one room down the hall, but gripping the big armful of pillows each time also just felt like the right thing to do.

Beth and Joe convinced me to get in the shower, because warm water is known to lessen the pain of labor for some women, so eventually I tried that, and it did help some. I'm not sure how long I stayed in there - maybe 20 or 30 minutes? Beth retired to our downstairs bedroom once I had gotten in the shower. This sounds stupid, but eventually I wanted to get out because my legs and feet actually started getting tired from so much standing. The problem was, even after I got out of the shower, laying down became out of the question. Each time I tried that for the remainder of my labor, it was a disaster. It would feel great to lay down on the bed in between contractions, but then when one hit, that position was awful, yet getting out of that position during a contraction felt both impossible to do and absolutely necessary at the same time. Joe had the Cubs game on at this point, and I later heard him telling people, "we watched the Cubs game" during my labor, but um, was on, but I have no idea who was playing or what happened. I had a brief bout of nausea somewhere around this time that caused me to hover over the toilet just in case, but thankfully nothing came of it.

You may be asking yourself by now, what about the doula? Where was she in all of this? Good question. I can't remember exactly when or how many times we checked in with her, but Joe called, and I would sometimes talk to her to describe my contractions and that sort of thing. Overall, I really liked Barb the doula and think that she helped us to have the birth experience I was looking for. She fully carried out most of the duties that we thought she would. However, I will say that I thought she was going to arrive at our house to help out much sooner. I was in excruciating pain by this point and wanted that second wind that I thought might come with her arrival. In retrospect, I think that some of the blame for her not coming sooner should rest with us, because if we had just plainly said, "we want you here now," she would've headed over. Instead, though, we were relying on her judgment regarding the likely length of the whole process, so since the contractions weren't lengthening, I guess she figured it was not time to rush over to our place yet. I want to say that either Joe or I spoke to her around 10:00, and she was still saying then to call back when something changed, and that she really wanted to encourage me to finish that glass of wine and try if at all possible to get some sleep. Um, yeah....that should've been our clue that we needed to be more emphatic, and more descriptive of the current state of affairs with this woman, because let me tell you, there was no way I was going to be able to sleep, rest, or even sit down or lay down at that point, even if I had downed three Tylenol PMs each with its own glass of red wine.

At 10:36 (I remember looking at the clock), I told Joe to call Barb back and tell her that we needed her to come. I think he felt odd about calling her back so soon, so he said, "How about we just try to make it until 11:00 before we call her again?" I said no, we needed to call her now, because since she lives about 20 minutes away, it would likely be 11:00 before she arrived anyway, so I didn't want to wait any longer. He accepted that reasoning and gave her a call back. She said she'd gather up her things and head over.

Now, mind you, she knew that I had been in labor all day. Her children were surely already in bed by that hour. What could have taken so long for her to pack?! It seemed to take her FOREVER to get to our city condo from south Evanston. By this point, I was in unbearable pain and envisioning the doula to be some kind of magician or good witch that could come in, reach into her bag of tricks, and basically wave her magic wand over me to make the pain go away. I guess I was feeling desperate, but not hopeless - she was my hope! But the minutes ticked by, and still no doula. Where was she?! Finally, I said to Joe, I think around 11:15, that I wanted him to call her back on her cell phone to find out where she was. He clearly felt really bad about the "double-call" and didn't want to do it, since we already knew the obvious answer was going to be, "I'm on the way." I didn't care. I said to him, "PLEAAAASE! I'm BEGGING you. Just call her." So he did. I don't know why I needed to know her exact location so badly, but I did. She answered Joe's call and said, "I'm just pulling on to your block." Okay, our block is a normal block, and parking is usually ample, so she should've been ringing our buzzer momentarily thereafter. Somehow, someway, about another 10 minutes passed between that call and her arrival. Okay, maybe it was only 5, but I thought I was going to die. Intense pain is a weird thing, because once it's gone, it's gone. So, I'm finding it difficult now to put into words any accurate description of what this all felt like. At one point, though, I told Joe that I felt like I wanted someone to smack me in the back with a baseball bat. No, seriously. I have no idea why, but this pain in my back was leading me to feel that shattering my spine might be an improvement. In talking to my midwife well after the fact, she said that this is not uncommon during labor; that is, an absurd desire for something more violent or more awful to somehow relieve the pain.

Anyway, Barb finally showed up. She did not have a magic wand, but I do think she gave me renewed focus. First of all, she was just full of encouragement and praise - a lot of, you're doing great, you can do this, etc. She also spoon fed me a few bites of yogurt and got me to get down most of a banana. That may sound ridiculous, but I believe that the food and hydration throughout labor really helped. Makes you realize how crazy it is that they expect women in the hospital to labor for hours on end with nothing to eat or drink - it seems tortuous to me. Barb did this hip squeezing thing where she stood behind me and put strong pressure on my bones during each contraction. It's not as if this made the pain go away, but it did seem to help greatly. Also, she had Joe doing this gentle jiggling of my belly during each contraction. Something about that was supposed to possibly help the baby turn around, because back labor is usually caused by the baby being in a posterior position. It felt weird to have all of these hands on me with each contraction, and I was still bending over the edge of the bed and yelling into the pillows with each one, but hey, whatever works.

Then Barb suggested the bathtub. Our tub is a shower stall with sliding glass doors, so the whole thing was a bit awkward - it's not the easiest tub for someone to sit on the edge of to provide you support, much less squeeze your hip bones together, but we made a go of it. The tub was not an improvement. I think I was in too much pain at that point and preferred the land based, hands on thing that we had had going. I tried getting on my side, and I tried getting on all fours on a towel in the water (so that my knees wouldn't hurt), but it just wasn't working so well for me.

Okay, let me pause here to get back to the whole natural birth attempt for a moment -
As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, I was not dead set on going for a natural birth. And by this point (the bathtub scene, that is), I had mentally said screw it. Joe of course didn't want to seem negative, since he was supposed to be the ever encouraging support person, but I could see it in his eyes, too, that we both knew that there was no way that I was going to have a natural birth. I had your typical, "what on earth was I thinking?" thoughts as well as a feeling that hey, if other women can do this then great, more power to 'em, but I cannot. I also remember kind of thinking well, maybe I could have done it if not for the back labor, but this? This is unbearable. None of this was said out loud, but I'm just saying that mentally I had gone from wanting to attempt a natural birth to trying to figure out when I'd be able to get the epidural.

Also, I'd like to tell you that I was generally positive throughout the labor, but that's definitely not true. On the positive side, I would occasionally focus hard on whatever was directly in my line of sight (like the drain in the tub or whatever) and think to myself, you can do it, you can do it, over and over during each contraction. Often I would sort of chant that out loud, too. Another common refrain from me during contractions was, "don't fight it, don't fight it, don't fight it." Sometimes I would also be thinking the tried and true, "I can do. All things. Through Christ. Who strengthens me." (I had to chop it up like that - I don't know why.) I know that one may come as a surprise to some of my readers, but it is a throw-back that goes all the way back to my childhood, running in a troop up hills that felt like mountains while on a trip at camp Kanakomo. I've relied on it many times since then during triathlons or other physical challenges. So, anyway, that was the extent of my positivity. There was a LOT of, "I can't do it. I can't do this," being said. Also, a fair amount of swearing for which I apologized to the doula. She said not to worry, that she had seen and heard it all.

I was probably in the tub for maybe 4 or 5 contractions or so? I started saying, "Okay people..." to Joe and Barb as each one subsided. I'm not sure why, but I think it was kind of like an unfinished sentence, like, "Okay people, this is ridiculous." Or, "Okay people, I think I'm going to die." Finally, after one more contraction I did complete my thoughts, this time out loud. I said to them, "Okay people...I want to go to the hospital." Barb asked if I was sure. I couldn't have been more sure. I think Joe looked a little relieved, like he was worried about me and happy to see me finally throwing in the towel. I mean, let me be clear here - this was not me thinking I wanted to go to the hospital because I thought the baby was imminently arriving. This was me thinking I wanted to go to the hospital because I wanted pain relief. That was the only reason we left.

Of course, first there was the process of getting out of the tub, getting dry, calling the midwife to let her know we were heading in, and getting in the car. I don't recall, but I think that took four hours. Okay, so maybe it was more like 4 minutes, but it felt like FOREVER, because by the time I made the call to go to the hospital, I wanted to be there. Yet every 2-3 minutes, I was completely stopped in my tracks by the searing, surging pain of another contraction. Barb helped me into my clothes, and I remember saying, "I guess I should put on a bra, huh?" because I was wearing a tissue weight t-shirt. Thankfully she said that it didn't matter and might actually be better if I didn't. Joe dialed up the midwife who wanted to ask me a few questions about my labor to judge how far along I was, but in the middle of that conversation I threw the phone on to the bed when a contraction came. The whole thing seemed so stupid to me, because in my mind, there was no way that we were NOT going to the hospital, so what was the point of these questions? Barb asked if I wanted her to at least do a cervical check before we left, basically implying that I might not have dilated enough to warrant going in yet. I told her no, there was no need, because I didn't care if she said I was only 1 cm dilated, we were going.

While I was getting dry and dressed, Joe ran out to the car to take the infant car seat that he had installed earlier in the day out of the back seat. We didn't realize that the doula would be riding with us to the hospital; we thought she'd be driving separately, so he had to take the car seat out to make room. As it turns out, we were very glad to have her with us. Barb went to the kitchen to reheat a rice sock in the microwave for the ride (yes, a sock, filled with uncooked rice, and heated in the microwave was my high tech pain relief method - try it before you knock it). Beth popped up from downstairs and gave me a goodbye hug just as we were heading out the back door. We drive a four door 2000 Honda Civic, and as Joe climbed into the driver's seat the doula explained to me the position that she thought would work best for me. I was basically on all fours in the back seat, with my forehead pressed up against the glass of the driver's side back seat window, and my butt in the middle of the car. Of course, the bench seat in a Honda Civic is only so wide, so when I say "on all fours" what I really mean is that my left hand and knee were up on the seat, but my right arm was kind of hanging on to Joe's headrest, while my right knee kind of dangled. Then Barb slid in behind me so that she could keep doing the hip squeezing thing during contractions on the drive.

Now, I knew the drive would be bad. For starters, Crystal, who gave birth in May, told me that the drive was probably the worst part of her labor because the car was so uncomfortable, and she even joked that she wished she had rented a large van for this purpose. Also, there is the inherent fact that by laboring at home as long as possible before going to the hospital, I'd obviously waited until I REALLY WANTED the epidural, like NOW, to get in the car. I wished we had a magic carpet or that I could just snap my fingers and we'd be there. And we don't even live that far away from the hospital - about 6 miles, most of it on the expressway.

So, we take off. I've got my eyes closed and my head up against the glass. I can't see the turns Joe is making, but I can sense where we are because we've driven this route so many times to get to work - I know we're not yet on the expressway. Barb is saying things like, "It's a beautiful night. A great night for having a baby." And I know she's just doing her job, being positive, but I'm thinking, "Any goddamn night is a great night to have a baby." We pull on to the expressway, and I have a contraction. I'm practically screaming it hurts so bad. I think Joe was still driving at a relatively normal pace at this point, probably over the speed limit, but nothing crazy. I open my eyes and can see the billboards and lights of the buildings in the night sky whizzing by. Another contraction hits, and I'm really screaming now, and then PLOP! My water breaks. I was so freaked out, because I was not expecting that, and I had never felt anything like it before, since during Georgia's birth my water was broken by a nurse at the hospital and I hardly felt anything. This felt exactly as though a large water balloon had just fallen out of me. I shouted in a panicked voice, "My water broke!" Barb grabbed the first piece of paper that she could find - our birth plan - from her bag and said that she was going to stuff it under me to see if the water was clear. This was all happening very fast, and I was probably screaming in pain at the time, so it was somewhat confusing, but I think the point of that was to see if the liquid was clear or if it had meconium in it. She said it was clear, and then as she reached to the front seat to grab some surgical type gloves out of her bag, she said all nonchalant-like, "Okay, now with second time moms, once your water breaks, the contractions usually get more intense. So, I'm going to put these gloves on, just in case." I guess the nonchalant thing worked on me, because I thought she meant she didn't want the ickiness of my bag of waters, or germs from it or something like that on her, and that that was why she was putting on the latex gloves. Also, my ears pretty much only heard, "more intense" and my brain could not compute that possibility. How could the contractions possibly get more intense? Joe, on the other hand, immediately knew that what she actually meant was, "I'm putting on these gloves since the baby may be born in this car any minute now and I'll have to catch it." So, that was when Joe's lead foot hit the floor and we were suddenly going between 85 and 100 mph. This was just before the Ohio street exit that we needed, but there was some road construction going on, so I remember looking up to see Joe swerving to get around orange and white barrels in the road. I'm such a religious seat belt wearer that it suddenly felt really weird and unsafe to be flying down the road, up on my knees in the back seat, navigating construction barrels, and I had fleeting thoughts of this whole thing ending in a tragic ball of fire. (I know, I know, Joe always tell me I have too much of a morbid streak in me, but I can't help it.) As soon as my water had broken and the next contraction hit, everything was completely different and I felt a nearly uncontrollable urge to push, which of course freaked me out because I knew that wasn't a good idea. So I'm telling them, "I feel like I need to push!" And Joe and Barb are telling me no, no, no, don't push. I'd scream and moan with each contraction, and Barb coached me to use a much lower, guttural groan if possible and not a high, shrill scream, because I guess that was a better idea for some reason other than saving their ears? She also told me to do this cough like noise and breathing technique that helped me to fight the urge to push, and it was quite effective. I mean, I'm not saying it eliminated the feeling, but it may have been just enough to prevent us from having the baby on the expressway, so yeah, thank God the doula was there. I'm guessing these may be the type of things people learn in childbirth classes but I wouldn't know.

We hit at least one red light on Michigan Avenue, and I kept reminding Joe to be careful at every turn, stop or pothole, because bumps were not helping matters in the back seat. Finally we're there, pulling into the circle drive entrance of the hospital. Barb's helping me out of the car while Joe's giving the keys to the valet guy. It was probably only a 10 step walk from the car to the front door, but I got hit with another contraction, so to get through that I had to stop and grip a gigantic concrete column of the cavernous, multi-story entrance. Did I mention the concrete? Because I think the yell that I belted out was amplified enough to wake up half of the Streeterville neighborhood. I was vaguely self-conscious about that but really did not care.

Then they made me get in a wheel chair to be carted inside, which, as it turns out, put me in the least comfortable position possible for the next contraction. That one hit just after Joe pushed me the approximately 20 feet from the front door to the triage desk. So, as the check-in woman was sitting there asking us, "Name?.....Date of Birth?.....Social Security Number?......" as slowly as humanly possible, I started screaming in agony, and not the guttural moaning stuff, but a plain ol' high pitched shriek. I couldn't help it.

Turns out that shrieking is the fastest way to skip the check-in process, because the set of double doors in front of us were immediately flung open and two nurses yelled, "She's ours!" and whisked me away. I'm saying, "I have to push! I need to push!" and everyone's still saying no, no, no, not yet. So I'm yelling in desperation, "Why not?!" I mean, in my mind we were close enough! Inside the hospital! With people wearing scrubs! Wasn't that sufficient? I didn't care if these were nurses or doctors or janitors, they looked qualified enough to me to warrant pushing. But everyone's still saying, no, no, no, you have to wait.

So they wheel me into the first triage room about 10 feet away and get me on to a gurney somehow. One of them does a cervical check and says, "She's complete. At a plus two station." (Apparently plus three is crowning, so this means I was very close to delivering the baby.)

Then there was this blur of them rushing me into the elevator to get to the delivery floor, and sprinting down the hallway on the gurney. I just remember a fantastically cool rush of strong air conditioning blowing over me.

We get to the delivery room, and they again have to move me, this time from the gurney to whatever that delivery table/bed thing is called. Mind you, I'm in a lot of pain here, and REALLY wanting to push, so I'm still asking, "Why?! Why?!" All of this was happening very fast, I'm sure, but I was protesting the move nonetheless.

So now I'm on the delivery bed thing, surrounded by about 6 or 7 nurses who all seem to be shouting orders at one another and at me. Joe is by my side. We've beat the midwife on call to the hospital, so she wasn't there yet. In lieu of her, an OB resident introduces herself in between contractions and says that I can start pushing. Joe tells me later that an on call OB also popped in, but I don't remember seeing him. It was utter chaos, since multiple nurses were telling me to push, while others were saying wait, okay now! Still others were trying to hook me up to those various monitors - the contraction monitor thingie and the heartrate monitor thingie - I don't know exactly what it all was, but part of it they were trying to strap around me and part of it they were trying to hook up to my finger. There was no time for an I.V. or heplock, though.

Let me pause to tell you what I was thinking during all of this. Two things: (1) "Is this really happening? Oh my God, this is awesome, I think I may actually end up having a natural birth and I cannot believe it!" and (2) "Is it too late for the epidural?! Shouldn't someone be calling in the anesthesiologist?" You think I kid, but seriously, even as I could see the baby's head I was wondering if I could get the epidural. I really think this is because I pushed for four very long, difficult hours during Georgia's birth, and for much of that time, the people present kept telling me that I was doing a great job and that we were almost there. So, with June's birth, even though I only had to push a handful of times and for a total duration of, oh, I don't know, maybe 3 minutes, I was quite dubious of the people telling me that the baby was coming out like, right now. I was afraid that their idea of "almost there" meant "you've got two hours left," so that's why I still had drugs on the brain.

The on call midwife did show up in time, and although she did not have to do much but catch the baby, she was still great. She started repeating my name and said, "Look at me." She helped me to calm down and focus amidst all of this chaos, because it was easier to listen to just her rather than this whole cast of characters surrounding the bed and telling me different things.

I pushed a few times, and the pain changed to a burning sensation. It was so wild to actually feel the baby emerging from within me. Suddenly it was all over, and someone pronounced, "It's a girl!" and set her on my chest. I was wide-eyed and panting from both exhaustion and exhilaration. I was stunned from disbelief of what had just happened - the car ride was an insane experience and obviously still fresh in my mind - and I just could not phathom that I had had a natural birth in light of my frame of mind about a half hour earlier. I wish I were a better writer so that I could put into words how shocked I was. The feeling of having June set on my chest was amazing. My mind was swirling, though. Joe and I later estimated that approximately 8 or 9 minutes passed between the moment we set foot in the hospital and the time of June's birth, 12:59 a.m.

So, was there the natural birth high that people describe? Yes and no. It wasn't like riding unicorns down rainbows, a la Anchorman. For me it was just a tsunami of endorphins and adrenaline. Both Joe and I were in a complete state of shock. Happy, thrilled shock.

It seems that when other people have heard this story, a lot of "shoulds" come out in their reactions. As in, the doula should have known that the baby was coming soon. You should have paid more attention to the level of pain and less to the length of the contractions. You should have left for the hospital earlier. Okay fine, considering how dangerously close we came to having the baby in the car, I guess that's all true on some rational, objective level. But I want it to be known that there is no "should" about it for me. Given that everything turned out okay, I wouldn't have had June's birth any other way. This was one of the most amazing life experiences I've ever had, and I got to share the whole thing with my husband. We will never forget it and will always have a great story to tell. Moments like those that we lived through that night are the ones that get your blood flowing, that bring you closer together, that make life more interesting, are they not? June knows not what she caused, but I thank her for giving me these memories. Here's to hoping that the road with her gets less painful and dramatic as we go.

[So, there you have it. If you're still reading, congratulations on making it through the most long-winded birth story ever. What did you think? In a way it reminds me of Danni's posts about ultra-marathons, in which each paragraph and each mile described sounds more painful and awful than the last, and yet she gets to the end and says that, in conclusion, it was a fantastic run that she can't wait to repeat.]

A couple of words about the pictures: Best thing about having a doula? Built in delivery room photographer. Also note that the date on Joe's security badge is wrong - we arrived on 8/18, but in our hasty entrance they wrote it down incorrectly. You can also see the pink of my t-shirt in some of these - there was no time for me to take it off.

June's Birth-1

June's Birth-2.jpg

June's Birth-3.jpg

June's Birth-4.jpg

June's Birth-8.jpg

June's Birth-9.jpg

Funny thing is, I didn't cry at all until we were leaving the hospital, but when I saw that column again I was struck by a flash flood of emotion.
June's Birth-80.jpg


RitaP said...

I don't know why, but I am crying when reading this. I read every last word and thank you for putting it all out there. Thank you for sharing your experience. Can't wait to meet both Georgia and June in a month.

katandkarl said...


(oh and i REMEMBER that BURNING. jebus.)

It's a wonderful, amazing birth story!

jessica said...

Wow. You are truly amazing. This post brought tears to my eyes. I love you guys.

Danni said...

That's unbelievable Kate. You are so awesome. And I'm pretty sure, as sure as I can be having never had a baby, that what you just did is a gazillion times more mentally and physically difficult, painful and epic than any ultra!!!

Susan said...

I haven't started reading it yet, but am literally laughing out loud at how long it is - you weren't kidding! I'm excited to jump in and get started on this little novel of yours...must be a great story!

Crystal said...

kate! this is so well written!
i love hearing your thought process through the whole experience-- so right on.

and the look on your face in those photos -- such a mix of awe, shock, exhaustion, exhiliration (with a dash of WTH just happened?)

all in all a beautiful birth!

Susan said...

That was a great story!! And so well written that I got through all of it very quickly. Amazing job, Kate (and Joe too!). I have friends who have gone in with very similar mindsets of yours, but could not do it and got the epidural. You’re my first friend to make it all the way through!

Anonymous said...

I read every word - you ROCK! Feels like I was right there with you and Joe and doula. Some of my favorite lines:
"Any goddamn night is a great night to have a baby."

Tom T. (continued)

Anonymous said...

"that was when Joe's lead foot hit the floor and we were suddenly going between 85 and 100 mph."
"Joe and Barb are telling me no, no, no, don't push"
"Turns out that shrieking is the fastest way to skip the check-in process"
LOLOLOL!!! I will read this again and again!! Thanks for writing all this down and posting. And congrats again. -Tom T.

Ann said...

Kate, I'm Maggie's friend Ann and I just wanted to say I LOVE your candor and your ability to make this (natural birth the second time around) sound possible. I didn't get it with my first and now I am wondering if I ever will. This post is great because it's inspiring and hilarious at the same time. Well done.

Sara said...

Wow, your birth story is SO MUCH like mine with Phoebe!! Except for the fact that I felt almost no pain at all until my water broke at home and then it was like full-on transition, with a baby almost born in the car...the whole nine yards...same as you! The water breaking really just brought everything on so fast. And I also had those two conflicting but very real feelings about an epidural. I literally screamed for an anesthesiologist and they were like "um, no, your baby is coming out." and it was so cool to have the natural birth experience i always wanted, even if it was by chance. it was painful and scary and bizarre and insane but it was the best night of my life :)

Kate said...

Thanks, everybody! Glad you all enjoyed my account.

Susan - you crack me up. Who leaves blog comments on posts they haven't read?! ha!

Rita/Jessica - I guess you 2 are easy marks for tears.

Kat - I've read your story...this pales in comparison to yours!

Danni - you're nuts. You give me too much credit. I could never do an ultra! (Well, first I should try a 'regular' right?)

Ann - thanks for your kind words!

Sara - that's funny! Glad you can relate.

Frances said...

You are amazing. James and I talked about this post for 2 nights over dinner. We loved your descriptions and the whole story was just so honest, funny, and moving. We're so happy you and June came through happy and healthy. Can't wait to meet June one day!
F & J