Lucy Jane: A Birth Story

This will be long. It might even be a bit gross at times. But hey...that's motherhood, right?

My first experience having a child was not quite what I expected or what I had planned. I knew going in that things could always change at the last minute, but I prayed they wouldn't stray too far from the ideal Pierce and I had in our heads. At 41 weeks, I went to see one of the midwives at Intown and she told me we could talk more about induction at my appointment the following Wednesday. Although induction was definitely not my first choice, I knew it was a likely possibility considering Lucy's size. So for the next week, until Wednesday, November 20, Pierce and I sat and waited for baby Lucy to come on her own. But she never did. I guess my uterus is pretty cozy.

At my 42-week appointment, the midwife asked what I wanted to do: be admitted to the hospital for an induction or wait and see when Lucy would arrive. Pierce and I had thought long and hard about this decision, but the waiting game felt endless. We were tired. We were over it. We were also a little bit sad. Every phone call and text message reminded us Lucy that wasn't here yet. We were grateful for all the people who shared our excitement and prayed for us daily, but if anyone ever says the last few weeks of pregnancy aren't somewhat tedious, they're either lying or they've never been pregnant. And every day that passed was another day our concerns about Lucy's size - and whether or not I would be able to deliver her vaginally - grew (no pun intended). After being told she would likely be at least nine pounds, I feared I would have to have a C-section. My midwife believed that if I was induced, it wouldn't take much to get my body laboring on its own so I could have the birth I'd planned. That was when I realized I was more than willing to deal with an induction than I was a Cesarean. So the midwife on call that day - Deena - scheduled me to be admitted to Atlanta Medical Center at 5:00 a.m. the next morning: Thursday, November 21st, exactly a week before Thanksgiving.

Later that day, my mom and little sister drove up to spend the night with us, and Kati, Pierce, and I went out to eat at a local Mexican restaurant here. The next morning, we got up around 3:30, showered, dressed, and drove a whopping two miles to the hospital. Pierce and I were so excited. We couldn't believe the little girl we'd been talking about for almost a year would finally be with us that day, and it was all a bit surreal. I remember feeling the same way when I got engaged and married. I kept thinking, "Is this really happening to me and not someone else I know?"

After we arrived at the hospital, we checked in and I was admitted to Labor and Delivery. My dad and stepmother showed up about an hour later and we all sat around the room, talking and laughing, while the nurse, Alisha, walked me through the induction process, hooked me up to the heart rate and contraction monitor, and checked my blood pressure. All of the staff there were simply incredible. Alisha was the best nurse I could have asked for: bubbly, encouraging, and pregnant to boot. She knew what I was going through and she made me feel as though we'd known each other for years. Best of all, Atlanta Medical Center is pretty relaxed about visitors and although their official limit for L & D is three at one time, they let Pierce, Kati, my mom, dad, and stepmother all stay in the room. I cannot say enough good things about that place. I should have made some Thank-You candy bags or something, what with all the time I had on my hands those last few weeks, but I didn't think about it until later. Perhaps a Christmas card will suffice...

By the time I'd eaten some Chick-Fil-A for breakfast and been hooked up to an IV for pitocin, it was about 7:30 a.m.  Just before I got started on pitocin, Deena gave me a physical exam and discovered I was only dilated to 3 cm and 50% effaced...the same as I had been a week before. The contractions began as very mild cramps and I remember feeling only slightly uncomfortable. I wasn't confined to the bed because I was hooked up to a movable IV, but with all the wires and bands attached to my body I wouldn't exactly say I was mobile. I reclined on the bed while Pierce sat next to me and we chatted with my family. Periodically, Alisha or Deena would come into the room for updates or to check this, that, and the other.

Around 11:00 a.m., the contractions were coming stronger and closer together. Unfortunately, I wasn't progressing very much. We asked Deena if it would still be possible for me to get off the pitocin and she said she was afraid that if we did my labor would stall completely and we'd have to start over. We weren't really discouraged at that point (even though it meant I probably wouldn't be able to labor in water like I wanted) because the pain was still manageable and I naively believed it wouldn't get much worse. Everything I'd ever heard about pitocin was that it made contractions much more intense than natural labor, so I was surprised I wasn't in unbearable pain. It's what I had expected, but I still felt very much in control. Pierce stood by my side and stroked my forehead. He held my hand and told me how great I was doing. My parents and sister stayed busy keeping in touch with family and friends All in all, the first part of the day was enjoyable despite the fact that the pain was steadily increasing.

And then lunchtime passed and a switch went off. Somewhere inside of me, the pitocin hit its mark and it was time for me to put those Bradley Method breathing techniques to serious use.

We had a beautiful view of the city from my room and when we'd first arrived it was pitch dark outside. As the world woke up and the sun came out, we turned off the lights and opened the blinds. The room had a dim, gray look to it and it seemed quieter somehow. Perhaps it was. My family sort of faded into the background as Pierce and I labored through the experience together. I've never loved my husband more than I did that day (and every day since). He rarely left my side. The contractions were building in intensity with each passing minute and I squeezed his hand tightly as they moved down my abdomen, rolling through my body like waves of sharp knives. He whispered affirmations to me over and over and I inhaled deeply, concentrating on abdominal breathing like I'd learned in all my reading. I didn't try to fight the pain. I simply tried to keep my body relaxed and let the pain take its course. My labor went on like this for a few hours.

Finally, I couldn't keep quiet any longer. I began to sound a little like the woman who'd been laboring in the room next to me when we first arrived. I made sounds that sort of embarrassed me at first, but I got over it pretty quickly. Alisha, Deena, and Pierce told me how great I was doing, that my breathing was excellent, etc. etc. but after awhile I kind of lost control of my emotions. I got up to move around the room with Pierce. I couldn't labor sitting down any longer. I tried swaying. I tried squatting by the bed. I leaned on his shoulder whenever a contraction would grip its iron-like fingers around my middle. How do I even begin to describe what labor is like? I wish I knew how natural contractions felt, but I don't. What I do know of childbirth is that pitocin is no joke and it will knock you on your ass. Each contraction would begin just below my breasts, at the top of my uterus, and work its way down to my pelvis. Eventually the pain became so incredible I could hardly rest between them. It was as though someone was sawing through my midsection, carving a path that became deeper each time. I could literally trace my fingers over the places where the pain would begin and end. I knew exactly where they would start each time and I imagined myself pushing the air in my lungs to those places inside of my body, forcing the pain to move through me. This approach kept me distracted at times, but mostly it just allowed me to keep hoping for that moment when the pain would release and I could rest for a minute or two. Walking helped, but only slightly. I wanted to stay mobile, but it wasn't long before I found my way back to the bed because the energy it took to stand upright was preventing me from being able to concentrate on my breathing. After that, I sat in the bed and labored through minute-long contractions that came every 90 seconds for the next five hours.

At some point, I remember my dad sitting on the other side of the bed, holding my hand. My mom was juggling multiple phones and her computer in order to try and talk to all our friends and family about what was happening. Kati was mostly quiet, taking pictures for us, occasionally making a joke, and trying to stay out of the way. My stepmother, Celeste, helped keep my mother calm during a few exceptionally painful moments for me. And although I wasn't quite present for all that was going on around me, I remember being so glad to have them all there.

By the time it was early evening, I was in so much pain I could barely speak. It took everything I had to make it through each contraction. I counted that five deep abdominal breaths would get me through one and, usually, by the third breath I felt like I was going to split in two. I kept thinking, "Just make it to four and five will be nothing...then you can rest for a minute." That thought went through my head countless times. But when Deena came back to check me again and we found out I was only dilated to 7 cm, I started sobbing. I thought for sure I was going through transition and it was a huge blow to find out I still had 3 cm left. I cried to Pierce that I couldn't go on and he did exactly what I'd told him to do: he reminded me that, yes, I could and also why it had been so important for me to labor with as little intervention as possible. Poor guy. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. My family sat around the end of the bed and tried to encourage me as much as possible. Alisha did, too. I know it must have been hard for them, especially when I finally choked out, "I feel like such a failure, but I want an epidural." Suddenly, the room was loud again, filled with the shouts of my nurse, my midwife, my family, and my husband all telling me that I was far from a failure and I was about to push a baby out of my vagina, for goodness sake. I tried in between contractions to think as logically as possible, to remind myself that this was what I'd wanted, and would I regret getting an epidural? I asked Pierce, over and over again, if he would be disappointed in me. I was so caught up in thinking I would let someone down it wasn't until Alisha and Deena spoke up that I finally made a decision.

"This is not natural labor," they said. "This is much worse. You have nothing to prove to anyone."

At that point, Pierce asked everyone to step out of the room so we could talk. He brushed my hair away from my face, held on tightly to my hand, and told me that all he wanted was what I wanted.

After breathing through one last horrific contraction, I looked up at him and said through tears, "I want a fucking epidural."

The minutes had never passed as slowly as they did once Alisha started prepping me for the anesthesiologist. Rather than making my contractions more bearable, knowing I would soon be free from the pain seemed to increase them ten-fold. And P.S. the hardest thing I've ever done in my life is sit completely and utterly still as a contraction rippled through my hugely pregnant body...right around the same time a gigantic needle entered my back.

The epidural worked within minutes but, unfortunately, the whole left side of my abdomen didn't get the juice. So for about another half-hour I was still feeling the pain throughout that entire area. The anesthesiologist came back, turned me on my side, and gave me a little bit more. Alisha and Deena were going off duty, so they hugged me and said goodbye and, after that, I fell into the most blissful sleep of my life for two hours. When I woke up, Lindley, another midwife from Intown, was on call. She checked me, looked up with a grin and asked the best question I've ever heard in my life:

"Well...are you ready to have a baby?"

The room erupted after that. More nurses and staff came pouring in. My dad, who had left to drop my step mom off at home, came hurrying back to the hospital. My mother scrambled to get two of my best friends on Facetime so they could be "present" for Lucy's birth. Pierce continued to garner points for the World's Most Amazing Husband award. I was completely exhilarated...and also completely numb from the waist down. But, most importantly, I was present for what was happening.

The pitocin and epidural were turned off and, soon after, it was time to push. The nurse and Pierce both had to hold my legs up because I couldn't move on my own at first, but after almost an hour of pushing I started to feel my contractions again. I turned on my left side and was able to hold my right leg up on my own to push from that position. On a slightly more disgusting side note, I was secretly terrified of taking a crap on the bed. I know nurses and midwives have seen much worse, but after one extremely hard push I thought I smelled something not so lovely. I looked up, pulled off the oxygen mask they'd given me to make sure baby was getting what she needed, and asked my sister in a horrified voice, "Did I just poop?" Thankfully, the answer was no. At least that's what Kati said...

Anyway, I don't know exactly how long it was before Lucy arrived. I kept pushing, three or four at a time, as Pierce and Lindley counted aloud. Over and over I heard them say, "Good, Wendi!" and "You're doing such a great job, baby". Later, someone told me Lindley sounded like a cheerleader and they were right. She was amazing.

The most incredible part of the whole experience was the fact that I was able to feel Lucy bearing down on my pelvis. I knew when my contractions were coming and I was able to tell Lindley and the others I needed to push, rather than the other way around. I imagined Lucy making her way down the birth canal and out of my body and I was so impatient. I wanted to see her. I wanted to hold her. I wanted to hear her cry.

Finally, Lucy began to crown and I was able to reach down and feel her little soft head. I'll be honest: that was a little strange and it sort of freaked me out. It scared me because she seemed so utterly fragile at that moment and I just wanted her in my arms. A few big pushes later and I felt her head come out. One more push and the rest of her followed suit. It was the strangest, most wonderful sensation. She was here! I looked up at Pierce and he was wearing the biggest grin I've ever seen, his eyes wide with wonder over the little girl they were handing over to us. When I saw her for the first time, I burst into tears and clutched her close to my chest. She was slippery and slightly purple and absolutely gorgeous. She had my nose and mouth, Pierce's eyes, and when I said her name she looked up at me like she knew exactly who I was.

And then I cried some more.

Everything after that was a complete blur. A beautiful, messy, painful blur. And early that next morning, Pierce and I finally went to sleep next to our sweet little daughter. And I'll tell you what...she was well worth the wait.


Sally Roberts said...

Just because you opted for an epidural it in no way makes you an inferior mom. The important thing is that Lucy got here safely! It doesn't matter how she arrived - it only matters that she's here. :)
P.S. - You did an excellent job describing contractions.

AJClarke said...

So beautiful!!! <3

Cassie said...

Oh man... tears of joy right now. What a beautiful story, loved it!!

Mary West Barclay said...

Beautiful….Love MOM