I finally have a spare moment to jump online; K is asleep in her Rock n Play, I’ve managed to eat lunch AND make a cup of tea, and I’m feeling rested enough to focus on a blog post. Its amazing what a solid 3 hours of sleep will do. Before baby, three hours was a decent nap on a Saturday afternoon. Now its a restful night’s sleep. How times have changed.
I promised the birth story. The one thing I enjoyed reading most while pregnant were the stories of other people; how they coped, what they experienced, and of course, the photos of squishy babies that always accompany such stories.
So without further ado, here’s Kennedy’s birthday tale. All 48 hours of it.
Wednesday, August 14, I woke up at 5:00 am with a series of mild contractions. Nothing horrible, but just enough that I knew something was happening. I attempted to fall back asleep, but shortly after, realized that the contractions were coming fast; every 2.5 to 3 minutes. A bath helped a little, the shower helped even more, and I was able to doze in and out for awhile. I called our midwife A around 7:00am to let her know what was going on, and she assured me that this was most likely early labour…and that it could last for days. My best bet was to relax as much as I could, and get sleep when possible.
Contractions continued for most of the day, and by my 1:30 pm appointment at the midwife’s office they hadn’t slowed down or progressed at all. Our midwife M checked, and I was about 60% effaced and 2cm dilated; consistent with A’s earlier assessment of early labour. She explained that when active labour started, contractions would pick up, get more painful, and become longer and closer together. When they were five minutes apart, lasting for about a minute, and sticking around for over an hour, I was supposed to page again.
I took Gravol, had Tylenol and a glass of wine as per the midwife’s recommendations, and I managed to lie down for a little sleep. I slept in intervals all night; eight minutes here, twelve minutes there, depending on the length and intensity of the contraction. I realized that they were getting stronger, and the majority of the pain was in my back. Though I spent ages in the shower bent over, the baby would not move off of my spine. Contractions were stronger and stronger, and by about 4 am I was unable to sleep at all. I had J time contractions for me every so often, but they weren’t hitting the magical 5-1-1 mark. I kept labouring as best I could.
The pain continually got worse and closer together, and absolutely nothing seemed to help – no positions, no amount of walking; only standing in the shower took any edge off whatsoever. By about 3:00pm Thursday, we had paged A, and both she and Y (our doula) were on their way to our house to check things out. Y coached me through several contractions, swaying my hips and trying to shift baby around. While it helped minimally, it was a struggle to remember to move and not freeze in place. A checked me out, and after a quick stretch, I was dilated to seven centimetres; right in the heart of active labour.
The hospital bags had been packed for weeks; we grabbed our things, called our families and headed to the hospital. It was 6:00pm on August 15 by the time we had arrived; I had been in labour for 36 hours at that point. Since I was 7 centimeters already, A decided to rupture my membranes as soon as we reached the birthing room. Though I was expecting the contractions to pick up in both intensity and closeness, I was not prepared for the onslaught of pain that was coming my way.
Contractions were one on top of the other, more painful and intense than I could have imagined. At my next check, I was still just 8 centimeters dilated, and my cervix was swelling. At this point, I needed some sort of intervention. I had planned a natural birth, and I had hoped that my willpower and the verse running steady in my head (Phillipians 4:8- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) would be enough to get me through. However, by hour 40 of painful labour, I was ready for some relief. While we were waiting for A, another midwife, to arrive so they could administer the sterile water injections to my back (and hopefully relieve some of my back pain), they hooked me up to nitrous oxide gas. And truth be told, for about 45 minutes, the gas was bliss. I relaxed completely, and while things still hurt, I could actually catch my breath.
The problem came about 30 minutes later, when the gas stopped being so effective. The sterile water injections were administered, and though I tried to keep inhaling as much nitrous as possible to keep myself loopy, it was dropping my heart rate, and wasn’t good for the baby. The contractions and back labour were so intense at this point that I knew I couldn’t cope; it had been 45 hours at this point, and I was too exhausted to handle it any longer.
I debated, briefly, whether I would consider myself a failure if I asked for an epidural. But constant reassurance from the midwives, J, and our doula reminded me that I HAD already succeeded; 45 hours of labour was enough for just about anyone. I begged at this point for some relief; forget those who would mock me for “giving in” and “screaming for drugs” – I couldn’t take any more pain.
The anesthesiologist was in the room within about 45 minutes, though it seemed like hours and hours. They explained what a transfer of care would mean (being switched from primary midwife care to OB care), though I was so out of it by this point (yelling through contractions, cramming the gas mask to my face with as much pressure as I could manage) that I really didn’t care. The epidural went quickly; I think the toughest part was when the nurses couldn’t get the IV into to my hand. Within minutes, my legs were tingly, and I felt marginally better; the pain in my back was gone, and I could finally get a moment or two of sleep. The nurse explained to me that pain would be gone, but that I would still feel pressure; she encouraged me to sleep until I felt “like my butt was dropping out” and I couldn’t stop myself from pushing. We sent the midwives home, told our families that we would call if I progressed any further (I was still at 8 cm, swollen, and baby’s head wasn’t descending very much). Everyone went home, J laid down beside me, and we attempted to get some rest. It was about 1:30am on August 16.
At 2:00am, I began having contractions that were unlike any I had felt before. I physically couldn’t stop myself from moaning and yelling through them, and every bit of my body was bearing down. The nurse stopped in to check my vitals, and told me that I would know when it was time to push. Hazily, I told her that I thought I was ready, though less than 1/2 hour before, I’d still had a few centimetres to go. She checked, watched me bear down through a contraction or two, and sprang into action.
“You’d better get those midwives back here.” she told Jordan “We don’t want them to miss the birthday party”. I thought this was her cutesy way of informing us that the baby would be coming soon; I’d heard of women who had pushed for hours and hours, and after such a long labour, didn’t expect anything different from myself.
By 2:05 am, families and midwives had been called, and I was being coached to grab onto my knees and give a practice push.
By 2:10 am, they weren’t practice pushes any more. I could feel baby moving into position. By 2:15 am, the nurse could see a full head of dark curls.
Three contractions later, about nine pushes from the first one, baby Kennedy was born, at 2:26am. Neither the OB nor the midwives had made it in time (A arrived at 2:30am), and L, the nurse, had to catch our baby. After two days of labour, no one could have predicted that pushing would move quite so fast.
The pain was over; my baby girl was placed on my chest for a brief second before the respiratory therapist had to suction her out (she had possibly inhaled meconium in the womb; we needed to make sure there was no risk for infection). She was 7 lbs, 5 oz, 20 inches long and beautiful. J stayed close by her side, while A and Y coached me through a few quick pushes to get the placenta out. Within about 20 minutes, Kennedy was back on my chest, and latched on to feed. After two years of trying, nine months of waiting, and a very long two days of labouring, I was holding my little girl. Nothing else mattered.
The surgeon arrived shortly after to stitch me up; I’d torn fairly badly, and required well over 25 stitches to get things right. Thank heavens for that nitrous oxide; the stitches were painful enough that even with an epidural and four lidocaine shots, I could STILL feel the surgeon’s test pokes. The nitrous reduced that to mere pressure, and made me loopy enough that I was commenting instead on the songs on my birthing playlist, and the fact that Kennedy was trying to nurse on Jordan’s chest. I believe there was also a discussion about sour jujubes, and how Jordan might die if he ate all the red ones.
The lack of sleep, the pain unlike I’d ever known, and the sheer exhaustion that came out of this whole ordeal is a vivid memory; but its only a memory. We’re now a family of three, and I couldn’t imagine anything different.
Happy Birthday, Miss Kennedy.