Posted by: Amanda | August 2, 2008

The Story of Gabriel’s Birth

It has taken me much longer to complete this than I ever intended. I think that part of the problem was the fact that I could not write it as I wanted to when Gabriel was a newborn. By the time that I could “perfect” my birth story, it seemed that I had let too much time pass (I had written all the facts down by the time Gabriel was a couple of weeks old, I just wanted to present my story in a particular way). On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Gabriel’s birth, however, I have been reflecting upon the events of that day. Now, it seems appropriate that I finally publish the story of Gabriel’s birth.
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It all began on Wednesday, August 1, 2007. It was August now. My medical due date had been July 23, I faced a non-stress test and ultrasound on Friday morning if our baby did not come before that time. After some thorough research, J.R. and I decided to try herbal induction, so we picked up some blue cohosh and black cohosh that evening. Before I began taking the cohosh, semi-timeable contractions (fifteen minutes or so apart) began. Since it was late and I knew that I would need rest before giving birth, I mostly ignored the contractions and went to bed after watching J.R. pack his hospital bag (containing our laptop, digital camera, and some other goodies). I slept a good eight hours plus that night, and woke up well-rested. After waking, I began taking the cohosh at about 8:00 in the morning on an hourly basis for five hours. Soon, I knew that our baby was on his way. The contractions were regular and became closer together steadily. I found the contractions uncomfortable, but not painful. I went about my regular daily routine: ate breakfast, read, and took a leisurely shower (I recall that running the water directly on my tummy during contractions felt wonderful). I finalized packing the hospital bags. I told J.R. that I was having contractions regularly, and that they were less than ten minutes apart. J.R. flew in to action, accomplishing a vast number of tasks in the period of only a couple hours – I wish that there was something other than his wife about to give birth that would motivate him (though I think it was largely nervousness and that he could not hold still) in a similar manner.

As the contractions grew closer, J.R. kept asking me if I was ready to go to the hospital. I kept telling J.R. no, as I knew that first births tend to take awhile and did not want to go to the hospital until my contractions were consistently closer together. J.R. and I ate lunch together, during which I had a couple rather uncomfortable contractions that caused me to take my time in consuming my baked potato. At a little after 2:00 in the afternoon I gave the go-ahead to J.R. for us to leave for the hospital. My contractions were about three minutes apart now. We arrived at the hospital around 3:00, due to some road construction and a train that slowed us down. With every unexpected obstacle to our arrival at the hospital J.R. grew more impatient. I kept telling him that it would be fine, I was doing well and, though our baby was coming soon, he was not coming NOW. J.R. said that although he knew this, it was just plain his “duty” to make sure that I arrived at the hospital safely and promptly and he was going to be uneasy until this duty was fulfilled. We parked and went into the hospital, J.R. apologized for making me walk so far (it really was not that far), and I reminded him that I was going to have a baby, not injured.

It seemed like it took the receptionist a very long time to get me checked in. I had to change into a hospital gown and wait to be checked before I could be admitted officially. When I arrived, I was dilated to six. The nurse, “C,” commented that I was doing very well, and then proceeded to hook me up to monitors (which I came to abhor during the next fourteen hours) in order to check on Gabriel’s status and my contractions. I became my most uncomfortable up to that point as I had to sit in that bed for fifteen or twenty minutes in order for the monitors to obtain a good reading of what was going on. I quickly understood why all of the natural birthing books that I had read said that lying in bed was the worst position for labor. I was told that since I was doing well and everything was normal, there was no need for me to be given the routine heparin lock, which made me glad, as I am not a particularly easy person to do blood draws on. Next, I was taken to the birthing room where Gabriel would be born. Interestingly, it was the exact birthing room that we had viewed when taking the hospital tour almost two months before. A birthing ball was brought to me and I enjoyed some time in the shower after this, though without a moveable shower head, it was not nearly as enjoyable as the shower that I had taken earlier at home.

After taking the shower I returned to the birthing ball and did some walking around the room. Nurse C required that I be hooked up to the monitors again. Gabriel did not seem to like me sitting on the birthing ball (as evidenced by his heart rate during contractions with me sitting on the birthing ball versus any other position I found comfortable), so I tried a combination of lying on my side on the bed, standing and walking around the room – none of which were found to be as appealing to me as the birthing ball had been. I was checked around 6:00 pm and told that I was dilated to nine. Small wonder that I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. My mother arrived at the hospital around this time. I spent some time in the jacuzzi shortly after this, though I did not find the experience to be very comfortable or relaxing for me, perhaps if the jacuzzi had been larger than a large bathtub I would have found it more enjoyable.

At 7:00 pm, my new nurse, “N,” began her shift. She commented that I was doing very well, telling J.R. that I did not even appear to be a woman in labor. When N questioned me about the level of pain that I was experiencing, I told her a six – even at the worst I never rated the pain of birth above an eight. By 9:00 pm, I was told by my midwife, “S,” that I was “fully dilated,” though a small lip of my cervix remained, and that I should try pushing, since pushing usually causes any remaining cervix to dilate. I tried pushing, but nothing was achieved by those early efforts. Now that I have actually given birth, I realize that I was not really at the pushing stage of labor at that time. I tried pushing a few more times without success. Looking back I realize that those failed attempts at pushing were most likely linked with my prolonged labor, exhaustion, discomfort, and frustration with the situation in which I found myself.

My mother called my father, who was at work, and told him that things were not going particularly well with my labor. Not long after this my father was at the hospital. Since my labor was failing to progress, N suggested the option of getting a pitocin drip to help move things along. Based on my research regarding pitocin, and my strong desire to have a natural, drug-free labor, I denied the drip, hoping and praying that I could make it through the intense contractions and meet my baby soon.

I spent the next several hours making it through the contractions. Most of my time was spent either on the birthing ball, or standing and swaying – as I found these positions most comfortable. I started feeling extremely exhausted as time went on, however, and ended up on my side in the bed because I just plain needed to rest. I began to doubt whether I would even be able to give birth vaginally due to how exhausted I felt. I believe that I was prepared mentally for the pain and discomfort of labor, but I did not imagine that I would face such extreme exhaustion. Around two in the morning, I decided that I was going to have to get the pitocin drip, since it was clear, even in my stubborn, wanting-to-follow-my-birth-plan-self, that my labor was not progressing as it should be.

Meanwhile, S and N must have been discussing what to do about me. S entered the room and told me that I needed to have an IV, since I was probably dehydrated and that could be what was stalling my labor. I also remember her mentioning that I needed to have the IV at this time because I was going to end up getting pitocin and/or a cesarean section if the fluids alone did not work. Though I already knew this fact in the back of my mind, I said (another) silent prayer that this birth would not come down to a c-section. At around three thirty in the morning, after two immensely torturous, painful, failed attempts, the IV line was inserted correctly and I began receiving fluids. I ended up never needing the pitocin. Shortly after being started on the IV, I finished dilating and entered stage three of labor.

Whether it had to do with being hydrated or the fact that I was actually ready to get this baby out now, some of my exhaustion disappeared when I entered stage three. I started pushing in a squatting position, but that position proved too exhausting and I ended up doing the remainder of my pushing in a “sitting-squat” position. I remember J.R. being faithfully by my side through the entire ordeal, always tending to me as he helped with counting, breathing, and anything else that he could help me with.

At 4:40 in the morning of August 3, 2007, Gabriel James was born. After all of the contractions and pushing, once his head was out, the rest of him followed immediately. I had been in active labor for almost an entire day, and had been at the hospital for more than twelve hours, but now we had our baby boy!

Immediately after Gabriel was born we had a very brief meconium scare. So brief that I did not realize what was happening until after the fact. The pediatrician was called to check on him, and thankfully, Gabriel had not aspirated any meconium; he was fine. In fact, Gabriel was in great shape. He cried immediately after his birth. Then they laid Gabriel on my chest and I fell in love with him immediately. In fact, I recall feeling an awesome joy and realizing in the second that I first laid eyes on him that all of my pain and suffering in bring him into the world had been “worth it” completely. In fact, the pain that I went through to bring Gabriel into this world was wiped from my mind essentially. I would endure every second of it all over again, should I be blessed with the opportunity, in order to receive the gift of another child.

After Gabriel’s birth, life became a bit of a “blur.” I nursed Gabriel. J.R. snapped pictures. My mother held Gabriel for the first time, looking to see if he had a dimple (which he does, but of course we could not tell at that time). Gabriel was cleaned up, weighed (seven pounds and eleven ounces) and measured (twenty inches). I regained my appetite with a vengeance and was given some orange juice to tide me over until breakfast was to be served. After eating and taking care of things, J.R., Gabriel, and I all slept, probably out of exhaustion in part, for some time. Our new nurse, K, tended to us that day and the next. All of the grandparents and some of the aunts and uncles came to visit us in the hospital. We arrived home on the evening of August fourth and began the process of adjusting to life with our new baby.

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