It’s only been six weeks, but who’s counting? Below is Gibson’s birth story the best I can remember it. I do wish I’d had a chance to write it sooner, but you know, this having a baby thing really turns your life upside down. So if you’re into blood, bellowing and birth- read on.
March 14, 2014- Gibson’s Due Date
After blowing off the doctor who wanted to induce us at 37 weeks and enduring endless NSTs (non-stress tests) to keep the induction-happy doctor at bay, we finally arrived at Gibson’s actual 40 week due date. I had finished the most recent pledge drive at work. My blood pressure was ticking up slowly, and the day before I’d had very brief periods of dizziness (signs of possible pre-eclampsia.) In my gut, I knew an induction was now best for Gibson and I. But not before the 40 week mark. It was important to me that I knew Gibson was full-term. I wanted him to have the best possible chance outside of the womb. All testing for my son showed he was doing very well. I just had to keep my shit together to get him to the end.
So at my last appointment, I told the doctor I was ready to schedule the induction. At 10 PM, The Man and I picked up some Taco Bell at the drive through and ate it on the way to the hospital. We’d been told that I wouldn’t be allowed to eat after the induction began. Thankfully, we were smuggling in Gatorade, coconut water, trail mix and other snacks to undermine the hospital staff. And it was a good thing we did.
We were checked in and settled into a room with an IV in my arm by midnight. The doctor on the floor that evening inserted a slip of paper coated in a chemical called Cervidil near my cervix and hooked me up to more damn monitors before leaving us for the night. The Man tried to sleep on the couch/pseudo-bed while I tried to get anything like sleep with the damn sensors on my belly being constantly adjusted by the nurses all night.
March 15, 2014
The next morning dawned cold and bright for all I know. I was in the hospital and not paying attention to what was going on outside. At the first check of the morning, we found that the Cervidil had done nothing for the six hours it had been allowed to work. I hadn’t dilated, the cervix hadn’t softened and I had only the very mild contractions I’d already been having. My doctor, one of the doctors from the practice I had been going to, decided to take it out and begin pitocin. I was not exactly elated to hear any of this.
However, to my surprise, when the contractions started coming they felt no worse than a menstrual cramp. Hell, not even the worst menstrual cramps I’d ever had. And so, the nurse felt comfortable upping the dosage every twenty minutes. I was talking, laughing, even enjoying myself. Thankfully it was about now that my doula showed up.
The doctor came back to do another check and the pitocin was doing its job. I was dilated to three centimeters. She asked to break the water, and I agreed. Looking back, I really wish I’d decided to wait. With the water intact, the contractions were tolerable. I was doing just fine. Even with 14 drops of pitocin at minute, I was dandy.
With waters broken, I went from “hey, this is a lark” to “the brakes are out and this truck is skidding out of control toward a cliff!” When the contractions started happening on top of each other with no break in between, I begged for them to stop the pitocin. And they did. Another check and I was at five centimeters. But emotionally, I was broken. Five centimeters was only halfway. I’d never make it to ten. I begged for the epidural.
My poor, poor, poor husband tried to hold up his end of the deal. We had discussed how we didn’t want to have an epidural. How I wanted to experience birth naturally. And he tried, oh the poor man tried, to remind me of this. But I was done and Past Kristin had no idea that Future Kristin would be in that much pain! I beat on his chest and told him I was done and that I needed an epidural. The nurse had to intervene because he was advocating the desires of Past Kristin with all the vigor I had made him promise to use. She eventually asked of the two of us, who had the final say. And when it’s your body, it should be your say. Future or rather Present Kristin knew what she wanted, and she got an epidural.
I cursed the anesthesiologist through every contraction while she set up a sterile field and pricked at my back in preparation. But when the medicine started to kick in— oh bliss! I offered to buy the woman flowers in apology for all the negative words I’d spewed only moments before. I didn’t care that the epidural would slow down labor. I didn’t care about anything but making the pain stop. I’d be a terrible spy as I’m sure I’d crack under torture.
Looking back, I think I maybe, might, possibly have been able to avoid the epidural if I had started labor naturally. If the contractions had started smaller and progressed slowly up the pain scale. Maybe I would have been able to acclimate a little better. But being thrown from “haha, contractions” to “Jesus Christ contractions!” Nope.
Anyway, I got the epidural and though the pain was gone I had this antsy feeling from not being able to move my legs. The hot/cold sensation running through me was irritating and I was showing it. Plus it made me nauseous. Thankfully, the nurse added Zofran to my IV and the nausea left. For the first time since Thursday night, I slept. I woke feeling the contractions and nausea again at some point later in the afternoon and the anesthesiologist topped off the epidural. That was followed up with another round of Zofran
At 10 PM, the doctor checked me again and announced good news. I was fully dilated and the baby was in the lowest position. I was ready to push. This is when I realized that my poor doula had now been sitting in the room while I slept for hours. She, Eli, was such a trooper. Though I kinda skipped out on her services during labor, she would prove invaluable during the pushing stage.
Strangely, when the doctor told me it was time to push, I had nothing but fear. I wasn’t ready. I would be a terrible mother. What if something I’d done during the pregnancy had hurt the baby and none of the tests or ultrasounds had picked it up? But then I was instructed to push. Three pushes per contraction (which thankfully, I still couldn’t feel) and ten counts per push.
Oh I hated the nurse at that point. And there was absolutely nothing wrong with her or what she was doing. But she was the one doing the ten counts. And her method was to encourage me at the beginning and THEN start counting. “You’re doing great. Just like that. Keep it going! Fantastic. 2…3…4…” Now I know bullshit even through my drug-y, labor-y haze. And that encouragement was adding at least five counts to the ten count. And that means I’m really pushing for fifteen fucking counts. Don’t piss on my foot and tell me it’s raining!
Now, after several rounds of this, I MAY have said something….harsh about that. And that’s when my doula took over the counting. She would start counting at one with no extra color commentary, but she counted more slowly. So in the end, I was probably doing just about the same length of time, but for some reason took less offense to it when my doula was counting. And, I want it on record that whatever I MIGHT have said to the nurse I absolutely regret. Little did I know that this would be the woman cleaning me and the room up in the aftermath of birth. And she was just doing her job. I do feel like a prick about that.
The worst part of pushing was that I had to be on my back thanks to the epidural. And the second worst part was that there was a clock on the wall that I could clearly see. So when I finished the first hour of pushing, I decided that I was obviously not making any progress and that the doctor should just try vacuum extraction. You know, me without the medical training or a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, was instructing my doctor how to do her job. I’ll never forget what she said. “I have a lot of very good medical reasons for not doing that. This is happening. You need to push.”
I think it was after that little exchange that the doctor called the anesthesiologist back in. They talked at my feet and then he topped me off again. Not enough that I was completely numb, but as the epidural had been wearing off my pushing had become less forceful. So he gave me just enough to get me to the end. I could push a lot harder when I could only feel a percentage of what was going on down there.
Now, before I get to the actual delivery, I just want to take a paragraph or two to give HUGE props to my husband- The Man. I held his hand during pushing and damn near broke his wrist. He held my left leg up during all the pushing and encouraged me at every step. I couldn’t have managed without him. He slipped me trail mix and Gatorade when the nurses were out of the room. I knew I’d need it for when I was pushing since I wasn’t supposed to have eaten since Friday night. I know I wouldn’t have managed even with an epidural, the doula, the nurses and doctor if that man hadn’t been by my side telling me that I COULD do it. I’d have given up and stopped pushing long before without him. He was my rock. That I unabashedly abused the entire labor. And he never complained.
He told me later, after Gibson was born, that the nurse had given him a hug in the hallway after our exchange about the epidural. He had been trying so hard to do what I had asked of him, and then I changed the rules in the face of my pain. He was near weeping from exhaustion and a feeling of failure after that. But he pulled it together and marched right back into the room afterward. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion and partner in this pregnancy and birth. Even if I beat him up the entire time. Poor guy.
March 16, 2014
Okay, so now I’ve been pushing for two hours. I am beyond exhausted. My doula is having to remind me to breathe between contractions. It’s all very intense. Then the doctor says, “Wow, look at all that hair.” Even though I think I’m unable to speak I pipe up with, “He has hair?!” I don’t know why but that’s when everything started moving quickly. The room filled with what seemed like hundreds of nurses and doctors. Bright lights were turned on. There was a buzz in the room. All of this heightened my senses and suddenly, I knew the baby was about to be born.
No one bothered with counting anymore. I was pushing regardless of contractions. My husband was telling me how close he was to coming out. How close it was to being over. That our son was about to be born. I could hear a soft murmur from the doula but she had faded from my senses. There was just me, my husband and this baby.
Strangely, I don’t remember feeling the baby come out. I don’t have a sensation of his body leaving mine in my memory. I just know I was pushing and then felt relief. But no physical sensation of him sliding out. However, I do remember what the placenta felt like when it left me. Strange.
Now, at this point the buzzing in the room turned to a concerned rabble. I wasn’t actually informed of this at the time. I suppose that was because there was just so much going on. My husband told me later. Gibson was born with the cord around his neck. However, all of his vital signs were great through the entire labor and delivery. So it’s possible the cord only got slipped over his head as he was pushed out. But for this reason, the delayed cord clamping I’d requested didn’t happen. And he wasn’t laid on my chest immediately after delivery. Instead he was taken to the in-room pediatric area and checked over as soon as the cord was cut.
He didn’t cry immediately as I recall. And I think I was freaking out a bit about it. I just remember seeing this purple-ish blob rushed across the room to the warmer. I didn’t have my glasses on while I was pushing so everything that was as far as the pediatric area is a blur. Then I heard him cry and The Man leaned over and said, “It’s okay. He’s okay. That’s him.” I think he was telling himself that more than he was letting me know.
Our doula had the composure and foresight to request our camera from The Man just before delivery. So she went over to the warmer and took photos. I am so glad she did.
The doctor continued to work on me (stitching me up) and recommended to The Man that he head over to see his son. He was terrified to leave me I think and asked if I would be okay if he walked 10 feet away. I love that guy. I’m glad he did because we got the picture above of Gibson clinging to The Man’s finger in the warmer. The first time father and son met. Even though Gibson’s head is turned away, I’ll treasure that picture forever.
I heard the doctor call over to the pediatric side with an estimate on the weight. “I’m betting 9 lbs. 12 oz.” And a nurse laughed and said, “Close, 9 lbs. 9 oz.” And all I remember thinking is “No freaking way.”
Finally the doctor was finished with her stitching. One of the nurses sat the bed up a bit. I noticed that it was after midnight. My doula said her goodbyes and slipped out of the room. It had been a very long day for her too. The number of people in the room dwindled to just two or three other than us.
A nurse told me that because my son was so big they were worried about his blood sugar and that if it was low they’d be forced to give him a little bit of formula. They did a heal prick to test it and found his blood sugar was good. I credit that to sneaking the trail mix and Gatorade during labor. It’s silly to ask someone supporting another life to skip meals during what turned out to be an almost 27 hour long ordeal. (If you include Friday night’s failed induction.)
I was so shaky and weak feeling when a nurse approached me with my swaddled son. I almost wanted to tell her I couldn’t hold him, I was too weak. But she moved my gown and unswaddled him so quickly, I didn’t really have time to form words. And then Gibson Fox was placed on my chest the way I had requested initially. He was so big! And still a bit purple with puffy eyes smeared in ointment.
So many times I had read that when you have an epidural, the baby is often listless at birth. But not Gibson Fox. He blinked up at me fully awake and licking his lips. Then the nurse and I worked on getting him to latch to my breast for a moment. Gibson knew his business thankfully and took to it like a champ.
I wish I could say that I was able to lose myself in the moment. But the effort of curling over my belly and pushing had really ruined my shoulders and arms. I felt like I could barely keep him from toppling to my lap in the position I was in. I wanted to enjoy my first moments with my son in my arms, but I just couldn’t think of anything other than how damn much my arms hurt and were shaking.
The nurse only let me hold him and feed him for a couple of minutes anyway. They asked if I wanted him to be bathed. I actually had read this could lower his body temperature into unsafe territory. But then I was informed that he was actually running a little bit hot and the bath would help lower that temperature. So my husband and I agreed, and he was whisked away to the nursery. I wish I could say that I ached for and missed him immediately, but there was my own physical aftermath I had to deal with. That’s not really part of the birth story, but it was difficult on as little sleep as The Man and I had.
Once we were in the recovery room, the nurse told us to get some sleep. They’d bring Gibson in when it was time to feed him. And then next thing either of us knew, he was there. We’d fallen immediately asleep after being settled. I awoke to a nurse calling my name to attempt to breast feed.
And I suppose, as they say, the rest is history. We were parents, and we had our son. If this were a Hallmark movie, now is when the camera would pull back and reveal that you’ve been watching all of this through a window on a snowy night. The three of us would be framed by the window as the snow softly fell and the music would swell up as we shared a kiss over our son’s head. Then the screen would fade to black and the credits would roll. Of course, in our case, it would read the staff of the hospital as the cast.
Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. Remember every woman, every pregnancy, every labor and delivery is different. This story just happens to be mine. Thank you.