Contractions began: 2 am (June 13, 2013)
Baby delivered: 9:03 am (June 14, 2013)
In labor: 31 hours (total with pushing)
Pushing: 2 hours
Well… I joked not for long… The night between Thursday and Friday (June 12-13) I work up at 2 am from a strong contraction. It subsided and didn’t come back until 3 am. Then 4 am. Then 5 am. At this point, I understood that this was it! I am in labor! I was still able to sleep in between, so I made sure I got as much rest as I possibly could. Since the contractions were still so spread out, I waited until 8 am to let Sergey know that he needs to jump on the plane and come over to hold my hand. He was home by 11 am, or pretty much on the first plane to Phoenix. My wonderful husband, and a VERY soon to be father was not going to miss even a minute!
Contractions continued to be mild-strong, but with a long interval in between. So I logged in to work as normal. I did tell my boss that this was likely the last day as I have strong contractions. At lunch Sergey and I walked around our neighborhood, but it was ridiculously hot! So I swam and got back to work. I had one more task that I was working on, which I finished by 5 pm and then went to bed as contractions were now stronger and increasingly close to each other. By 6 pm contractions followed the 5-1-1 rule (contractions 5 minutes apart, 1 minute in duration for at least 1 hour) and Sergey started getting us ready to go to the hospital. Thankfully there is an app to monitor contractions, which I used ever since I had the strong ones during previous week. I resembled a shrimp (due to my crunching during contractions) as I was getting into the car.
The next 15 minutes were very uncomfortable as we drove to the hospital. All of my pain was in my lower back. I can’t even remember feeling contractions in my stomach anymore. Sergey was AMAZING! He quickly remembered all those “back-labor” relieving tactics he learned in birthing class earlier and was constantly massaging my lower back at home and as we got to the hospital. Without his help the pain would have been unbearable!
So… we got to the hospital! Sergey dropped me off and went looking for parking. With my mother’s help I slowly crawled to the registration desk. The girl behind the desk could immediately tell that I was in a lot of pain. Thankfully we were already pre-registered, so I went into triage (where nurses decide whether you get admitted to the hospital or not/not yet) almost right away. Of course, I had a birthing plan which insisted on natural birth without any drugs… well… as soon as the back pain started that plan went back in the bag, because I was begging for an epidural the minute I got into triage! Apparently, the admittance process takes a while, regardless in how much pain you are. Nurse checked the dilation of my cervix and said it was only 3 cm, and usually they don’t admit patients in labor unless they are at least 5 cm dilated. She wanted me to go walk around the hospital to help the cervix to open! I held my ground, and it was obvious that it was difficult for me to even lie on the bed, without even trying to walk. Nurses finally gave in, admitted me, and started my IV so I can get an epidural as soon as possible. And, boy, what a relief it was when I finally got it after 2 more hours!!! Unfortunately, my mom had to wait in the waiting room as only one family member is allowed in the triage with the patient. But she joined us shortly after we got into a room.
The wonderful thing about American hospitals is that you deliver in the same room in which you stay. The doctors and nurses have all the necessary equipment in that room and come to you when the time comes. (The only difference is if a cesarean surgery is needed, then they take the mother into a surgical room. Still one relative is allowed to come with the mother into surgery.) The room is also equipped with a semi-bed and a lazy-boy chair. So both my mom and Sergey had places to lie down. I can’t say how comfortable they were, but at least they could get a little bit of rest. So… I finally got an epidural, but only one side of the body got numb. The anesthesiologist removed everything and tried one more time. The second time he got it right and both sides of my lower body were getting numb and the pain slowly subsided. After going to the hospital at 6 pm, I finally got some relief from pain at 10 pm. Regardless of my plan for not doing an epidural, I am forever grateful for having it done! This way I could concentrate on the actual child birth, rather than pain.
Unfortunately, epidurals have a common side-effect of slowing down the contractions which open up the cervix… I must have experienced it, because there was no visible progress for a while after. The doctor suggested rupturing the water sack; in many cases it helps increase contractions. We (my mom, Sergey and I) decided that it was ok at this stage of labor. Well… in my case that did nothing. At 12:30 am the doctor suggested to insert a baby monitor inside me… That didn’t sound too cool… but they’ve explained that it simply lies close to baby’s head to monitor her heartbeat and the strength of contractions. We agreed to that. At 1 am there was still not much progress (cervix opened to 4 cm), so the doctor suggested giving me Pitocin (a strong induction drug)… I’ve read a lot about it and knew that this was not something I wanted in mine and my baby’s systems… Studies have shown that Pitocin has an adverse effect on newborns! We strongly refused! FYI – it is absolutely safe to wait up to 24 hours for baby to come out naturally after the water sack is broken. So we were not going to risk it with Pitocin.
We all tried to get some rest as we waited for the cervix to open. Our attempts to get some sleep were constantly interrupted by the nurse coming every hour to check my temperature, blood pressure, and cervix dilation… “Annoying” doesn’t even start to describe it! Oh well… At 5 am nurse continued to insist on giving me Pitocin as the cervix only opened to 5 cm. By this time we were all exhausted and almost gave in. The nurse had already brought Pitocin into the room as we once again decided to wait and give my body as much time as it needed to bring our darling baby into this world. The trump was in our hands as the baby monitor showed that baby was absolutely calm with a strong heartbeat. This time the nurse was annoyed but, fortunately, we got it our way!
And, boy, the nurse and actually all of us were very surprised to hear that at 7 am the cervix was dilated to 10 cm on its own!!! Good thing we trusted Mother Nature! It was time to start pushing! The nurse gave me clear instructions on when and how to push. She was very informative and straight to the point. I was to watch the monitor of my contractions (since I didn’t feel the pain accompanying them) and to push with my abdomen muscles (in such a way that my facial muscles were to remain relaxed). I’ve collected all the saved up strength in me and pushed! Sergey was holding my hand and then the nurse put him in charge of holding one of my legs too! He was brave and stood by my side! Until one of the nurses almost fainted (low blood sugar) and Sergey also started to feel a bit light-headed, but that was closer to the end of pushing. My mom was holding my other hand and leg. She was strong the whole time through! She was an amazing support and love all throughout this long process!
Nurse brought in a mirror for me to see the progress. Don’t know how I really felt about it but it did give me an idea of how I was doing with my pushing. And I could see that baby had a LOT of hair already. As the head crowned the doctor finally came over! Until then the nurse was running the whole show! Not sure why the doctors really get paid the big bucks and not the labor nurses!?! Anyway, with a few more pushes the head was out! As I was trying to collect my thoughts and strength for more pushing, I was preparing myself for a lot more pushing than I really had to do! Apparently, I forgot that the head is the largest body part of a newborn baby, so the body was out with just one more push! Before I could even blink the doctor placed little Anna on my stomach at 9:03 am. She cried immediately and got an Apgar score 9/10 (in America they don’t give 10/10 scores, but Anna would get it if they did). Anna was so tiny, blue/pink as her cells were filling up with oxygen, and covered in vernix (whitish slime protecting baby’s skin inside the womb). Her big blue eyes met with mine and our hearts connected forever!
Then, the nurses took Anna to clean her up and weigh. Happy daddy watched every step and then got to hold little Anna skin-to-skin on his chest. He was the proudest dad and husband on Earth at that very moment. Then grandma got to hold her granddaughter. It’s an amazing feeling of holding a new person, a new life in your hands! In the meantime, the doctor stitched up the episiotomy cut she made to allow baby’s head a wider passage. And with that, nurses cleaned me up and everyone was out of the room except the nurse caring for me and little Anna. As I was going to breastfeed Anna, it was important to establish a first feeding soon after birth. But it felt foreign to both of us… The nurse explain to me how to hold Anna and give her the breast for a better latch. It seemed to work. Anna suckled a bit and then dozed off to sleep. She was finally here! Sleeping soundly in my arms! And there is was… I became a mother!
Shortly after, the doctor decided to still give me Pitocin, but now to continue uterus contractions to help it shrink after delivery. By this time, they’ve removed the epidural and I’ve regained the feeling of my lower body. Boy, did it hurt! Contractions with Pitocin felt a million times stronger than even the painful contractions I had before the epidural!!! I immediately got a fever and was crying for it to be over. Unfortunately, they made me go with it for almost an hour. Hopefully, it was worth it and uterus has shrunk! This is just another reason why I would not recommend Pitocin to anyone who can do without!
Over the next 2 days at the hospital, my mom and Sergey took turns of who went home to rest and who stayed with Anna and me at the hospital. We’ve learned to change diapers and practiced breastfeeding. Sergey was a SUPER-DAD, he changed 99% of all Anna’s diapers while we were in the hospital! Anna’s appetite grew faster than my milk was coming in. She cried and cried at night so we ended up giving her a little bit of formula to keep her stomach full a bit longer. Thankfully, this did not cause nipple confusion or her refusing from the breast. I’ve asked for a lactation consultant to visit and work with me on Anna’s latch, as well as talk me through on how to increase my milk supply. Lactation consultant told me to get a breast pump as soon as possible (according to a new law all health insurances must provide a pump for free) to help stimulate demand, so the breasts supply more milk.
Anna passed all of her tests with flying colors and we were released to go home. I felt bitter-sweet emotions going home: great to finally get out of a constricted space of the delivery room; and sad as I would not have the help of the nurses and lactation consultant anymore. However, having my wonderful husband and amazing mom at my side were all the help I will need in the days and months to come. Anna is here! We are healthy and happy! We are complete!