Saturday, June 28, 2014

Eliana's Birth

Our precious darling girl entered the world on Saturday, September 22nd at 12:36 pm and forever changed our lives.  Here is the story of her birth:

Eliana was due on Tuesday, September 18th; Tuesday came and went without any sign of our baby girl, but I wasn’t too worried.  In fact, I was fully expecting her to be at least eight days late since this was my first pregnancy and late babies tend to run in my family.  I had an appointment on Thursday, the 20th with one of the midwives; I had refrained from ‘getting checked’ until then but thought it might be a good idea to see if I was dilated or effaced at all since we were officially past our due date.  The midwife Sarah asked if I wanted her to strip my membranes; my answer was an emphatic no at that point; I anticipated Sarah telling us we were going to have to wait a while longer, but after she checked me, she said we were 2-3 centimeters dilated and about 80% effaced and that it could be ‘any day now’.  The reality that we were going to become parents soon (and very soon) hit me like a ton of bricks that morning.

The next day was an absolutely gorgeous Friday; I remember hoping our baby girl might make her appearance that day since I was born on a Friday, but even though Mom and I went for a nice long walk after lunch, there was absolutely no indication that Eliana would be joining us anytime soon.  I was having Braxton Hicks contractions throughout the day; Mom kept telling me I would know when the real contractions began, that the true contractions were much different than Braxton Hicks.

Isaac, Mom, and I decided to go out for a nice meal on Friday night.  We chose Thai food, and I issued Eliana her official eviction notice at the restaurant.  I still only ordered very little spice in my dinner because I was terrified of the heartburn that would result if I ordered my food very spicy as an effort to induce labor.  Yes, I wanted my baby girl in my arms sooner rather than later, but I did not want to deal with another night of constant heartburn.  When we got home, Mom and I went for another walk around the neighborhood, but still nothing seemed to develop.   

We decided to watch one of our favorite movies that night: the classic John Cusack 80s movie of Better Off Dead (it is hilarious- go watch it now if you’ve never seen it).  About 10:30, I got up to go use the bathroom when I felt a contraction that was different than any other Braxton Hicks I felt before, and I discovered Mom was right after all- I could definitely tell that contraction was a bit more serious than what I had been experiencing over the past several weeks with the Braxton Hicks. 

And then I felt my waters begin to leak.  It wasn’t a big gush, but it was noticeable.  When I went to the bathroom, I saw some bloody show.  I knew exactly what it was, but I called my mom to come and look at it anyway.  I will never forget when she said, “Yeah, you’re starting labor baby.”  It was a very defining moment of my life.  

Isaac and I decided to try to get some sleep.  Throughout the night, I woke up to a few contractions; they were uncomfortable and slightly painful, but they weren’t regular by any means.  I did wake up in the peak of one contraction; I think it was at this point I began a conversation with Jesus about how I know He knows all our pain, but that since He was man, He had never been in labor and given birth before and therefore couldn’t know the pain I was in at that moment.  Of course, a few seconds later when the contraction was over, I realized that being crucified was probably more painful than giving birth; I apologized to Jesus for my earlier rationale.  I think God just kind of chuckled at me at that point. 

I got up around 6:30 Saturday morning and took a hot shower to help with some of the contractions, which still weren’t regular.  I called my midwife Alison about 9:00 am and told her I had started leaking fluid and was having very irregular contractions.  She suggested I go for a walk and do other labor-stimulating activities to help speed the process along; she also said if within 18 hours of my waters breaking I wasn’t progressing, I needed to come to the hospital to start antibiotics.  Isaac, Mom, and I went for a walk around the neighborhood, stopping for each contraction with Mom timing them on her recently-purchased contraction app.  We came home, and Isaac headed to work for a little bit since things seemed to be progressing rather slowly.  When he left, I was sitting on the birthing ball, breathing through contractions, but still able to hold a conversation. 

About thirty minutes later, I asked Mom to call him and tell him to come home.  My contractions had progressed rapidly, and when he walked in the door, I was now leaning over the birthing ball (thank God for that birthing ball), moaning and humming through the contractions while Mom rubbed my lower back and applied some counter pressure.  I was trying every position Angela (our fabulous birth class instructor) had taught us over our seven week class with her; I even used my aromatherapy comfort measure for a few contractions (thank you dear Angela for giving me that Aveda spray), but I was rapidly becoming very uncomfortable.

After a few contractions, Isaac asked me if we needed to go to the hospital.  I said I didn’t know; he asked how far apart the contractions were coming.  Mom looked at her phone and told him every three and a half to four minutes or so.  He immediately said, “We need to go.”  Mom agreed, we packed up the car, and headed to the hospital.  Before I got in the car, I asked no one in particular to make sure I didn’t have a contraction for the ten-minute ride to the hospital.  Mom said she didn’t think that was going to happen.  Apparently, I had three contractions during the drive.

We made it to the hospital about 11:00 or 11:15 am.  Isaac dropped us off and went to park the car as we went to register.  Almost as soon as Mom and I were in the door, I got hit with an extremely intense contraction; I was halfway down the stairs into the lobby when I just stopped and grabbed the railing and breathed through the pain of the contraction.  I’ll never forget that spot in the hospital; I think that was when I truly realized I was going to give birth that day. 
Isaac made it in a few minutes later as his cell phone was exploding with text messages.  The person at registration asked if I could walk up to Labor and Delivery or if I needed a wheelchair.  I told her I could walk, so off we went.  Along the way, I had a few more contractions and was hanging onto walls, railings, and whatever else I could find.    

We made it up to Labor and Delivery and were taken to our room, complete with a tub for laboring (not that I got a chance to make use of it).  We met our super sweet nurse Jodi, who requested my urine sample and that I change into the lovely and oh-so-flattering hospital gown.  Isaac began to pray for us, but I only made it through about half of the prayer before I was leaning over the bed and moaning again. 

At this point, I was really feeling pain and my contractions were very close together; I already felt like I wasn’t getting much of a chance to recover in between each one.  I was asked to lay or sit on the bed so they could hook up the fetal monitoring device for a few minutes to check on the baby.  As the nurse was hooking all of the equipment up, she commented that my belly was very tight.  Hello, I was in the middle of a contraction.  Jodi came in to check me and said, “Well, that changes my plan a little bit.  You’re 100% effaced and at an eight, but I can pretty much flip that cervix back easily.”  She left to go update the midwife and came back a few minutes later. 

Of course, I had no concept of time at this point.  I had no idea how long I’d been in active labor or even at the hospital.  When Jodi told me I was dilated to eight centimeters, I remember thinking, “Not too much longer now then.  Okay, okay, okay…”      

Because I didn’t have the energy to get up and walk around, I just stayed on the bed, flat on my back.  I knew that was not how I wanted to be when it came time to push, but at that moment, it felt good to lay down.  With each contraction Isaac was rubbing my head or wiping my forehead with a cool washcloth (holy heavens, I got so hot so quickly) while my mom was reaching underneath me to rub my lower back through the contraction.  And I was squeezing the heck out of Isaac’s hand while humming and blowing through the contractions. 

Meanwhile, Jodi was trying to get an IV in my arm to get the saline lock in place (which is hospital policy even if the patient is planning on having a natural birth).  After a few failed attempts, she tried the other arm and when that vein blew too, she finally resulted to my hand.  She was so apologetic about not being able to get the IV on the first try; I remember thinking, “You sweet angel woman, that is the absolute least of my worries right now.” 

It wasn’t long after that I declared I felt like I had to push;  my mom got right down into my face and told me I couldn’t- that I needed to blow through it.  I must have looked at her like she was crazy because she stayed in my face and said, “Blow with me now.”  She started blowing while still rubbing my lower back, and I finally nodded my head and started blowing with her.  It helped, but I still wanted to push with every core of my being.  Isaac kept rubbing my head and applying the cool wash cloth.  But in between each contraction, I remember watching him walk from one side of the room to the other to get a tissue to blow his nose.  He was crying because he hates seeing me in pain and because he realized just how close we were to having our baby girl in our arms.

I don’t remember saying much during labor (apparently I was rather nice and didn't say anything too mean), but I do remember saying, “I don’t think I can do this” and was met by my husband, mom, and nurse all telling me I already was doing it.  I looked at my mom at one point and said, “I don’t think this was a very good idea.”  I think she might have laughed a little.  I honestly don’t remember. 

We were still waiting on my midwife to arrive when I asked how much longer she was going to be.  Jodi told me that she was coming soon, but that even if Alison wasn’t there after the next contraction, we were going to try pushing.  I don’t even know the thoughts that went through my head at that point.  I was all business and wanted to do what my body was telling me to do- which was push my baby girl into the world.

When the contraction came, I was still laying on my back.  I pushed and immediately said it wasn’t going to work; gravity was not on my side and I was tired of being on my back.  Jodi and the other nurses quickly pulled up the bed and converted it so that I could squat and lean on the birthing bar in front of me.  My midwife Alison walked in about this time (I was so glad she was on call that weekend); I remember making a quip about how my baby needed to make her appearance before Alison and her family left for Disney World the following weekend; Alison smiled and told me I was right and then reminded me to just do what my body was telling me to do.  She (and the entire staff at the hospital) was so calm and reassuring; her encouragement infused me with confidence.

I started pushing as I was leaning on the birthing bar; sure enough, I felt like I was taking a poo (well, I was- just like every other woman in labor) but even though I knew I was also pushing our baby girl down the birth canal, I didn’t feel like I was making any progress.  I remember thinking the pushing wasn’t nearly as bad as the contractions; I took a short break and thought about changing my position but almost immediately felt the urge to push again.  I leaned forward into the birthing bar and began pushing again and again, all the while hearing my birth team and the hospital staff and our dear friend Julia who was photographing our daughter’s entrance into the world telling me I was doing good and to keep going.

At some point I remember Alison telling me that our baby is starting to crown and that I needed to look at her and listen to what she told me to do to avoid tearing badly.  I pushed once or twice more and I began to feel the infamous ‘ring of fire’ and a split second later, Alison told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head.  I reached down with my left hand and touched her head and could feel the hair on her little head; someone mentioned she had good hair, and I vividly remember thinking, “Yes, she better after that heartburn.”  I brought my hand back up and looked at my fingers which were covered in blood but had just touched my baby’s head.  I pushed and pushed until I finally realized she was out. 

I fell back into the bed, and Alison and the nurses handed her right to me, placing her on my chest as she wailed at the top of her lungs.  Isaac was bawling and Mom was bawling and Julia was close to bawling, and I remember feeling nothing but sheer joy and contentment as I listened to our baby girl crying.  She had an incessant wail going, but Isaac got down close to her face, and she simply stopped and looked up at him, mesmerized.  It was one of the most precious moments of my life.

As my midwife was cleaning me up and the nurses were going about their duties, Isaac and I just stared at our perfect baby girl.  Our sweet little Eliana Rae had made her appearance at 12:36 pm, less than two hours after checking into the hospital and after what was only about 15 minutes of pushing.  My mom told me later that I had just redeemed myself for almost 30 years of being the family wimp and that she was so very proud of me and impressed that I had given birth naturally, without any medication whatsoever.  It turns out it was a good thing we weren’t counting on an epidural since there would have been no time for it anyway!

We were given some alone time, just our little family of three, before the nurses completed her assessment.  Her Apgar scores were an 8 and 9 and she breastfed within an hour of birth.  During her assessment, the nurse explained everything she was doing.  Our bundle of joy was eight pounds and seven ounces and 21.5 inches long.  When the nurse mentioned something about the baby pinkie, my mom thought something was wrong with her hand until the nurse said, “Yes, you see this little baby pinkie?  She will have you wrapped all the way around it very soon!”  And, indeed, it didn’t take long for that to happen!

There is so much more to her story, from her sudden transport to the children’s hospital on her second day of life to her week-long stay in the NICU to her homecoming to finally be with us.  And even though she is not yet three weeks old, both Isaac and I simply can’t imagine our life without our daughter.  I’ve realized that I am married to the absolute most wonderful man who is the most wonderful father, that being a parent is the most humbling experience of my life, and that even though we love our baby girl more than anything in the world, the Lord still loves her more than Isaac and I would ever be capable. 

~Shared by Jenny J.

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