So here we go. Rosemary’s birth story. It did not go as planned. This is probably the longest post in the history of my blog, but I wanted to get it all down before I forget.
My due date had come and gone and we had tried everything to try to get labor to start naturally. I was scheduled to be induced on Saturday night, July 24, and it loomed in my mind. 42 weeks pregnant. Excitement for our baby’s imminent arrival was there, but it was more like a pressing deadline weighing me down. It’s a very strange thing how big birth is. It doesn’t matter that millions have done it before, when you know its about to happen to you personally, it shakes you deep to your core. I was still mainly having issues that it wasn’t happening on my terms. I felt like my body was working against me. I wanted a natural water birth and hypnobirth so bad that it was hard to re-focus and come to grips with everything. This was not what I had planned for, mentally prepared for, what I had hired my doula for. Here I was, going to give birth at a different hospital (most definitely not a birth center), in a very medical setting, not being able to use the birth pool, having to be induced. I was so worried for the baby. My body didn’t feel at all ready to have a baby, even though I was mentally geared up. I had the worst heartburn of my life. The waiting was almost over though. Andrew and I went out to lunch on Friday for a last meal as the two of us, but it was hard to relax, to eat, to carry on as normal. That night, I fell asleep crying in Andrew’s arms while he assured me everything would be ok.
On Saturday, we woke up late and tried to chill out. I ate Cocoa Krispies and vacuumed the house again. Andrew showered and shaved his erratic mustache, because he wanted to look good in pictures of the big event. Andrew weeded the garden. We gathered the cameras and ipods and cell phones. They stood in a row, all plugged in, charging and blinking like little time bombs. I picked a book to bring and did a last load of laundry. We watched about eight episodes of Dexter—nothing to get you in the mood for giving birth like a lovable serial killer. Before we left for the hospital, we called our parents to let them know we were headed in. They all wished so much they could be thousands of miles closer to us, but we promised to keep them posted. Then we shoved everything in the car. It was strange snapping the car seat in and imagining seeing it next with our baby in it. We had a long hug in the doorway and then we finally headed out.
We got to the hospital at 6 pm, right on time. They checked us into the antenatal ward. It wasn’t crowded at all. A woman who was in premature labor with twins was in the bed across from me, and it was just us for most of the night. Every so often I would hear her have a contraction. Ironically, here I was trying to start labor for the sake of my baby’s health, when all this lady wanted to do was desperately stop her own labor for the same reason. The crazy human body. I peed in a cup and waited while the midwives took my blood pressure and explained how this would go down. I was dilated about 1 centimeter and was 80% effaced. They’d start by using Propress—a prostaglandin. I was told they would leave it in for up to 24 hours. Then, they’d observe me for 12 hours before starting a series of three six-hour gel inserts and intravenous oxytocin. Throughout, they would have to strap me to the monitors every two hours for 30 minutes. Ugh. I desperately tried to hold back tears while she was explaining this. I fathomed that could be here for a really long, long, time. It was depressing, but Andrew and I just kept reassuring ourselves that something would happen before long. Something had to go right eventually. So, we sat half-heartedly reading “What to Expect the First Year.”
Unless I was in active labor, Andrew would have to leave when visiting hours ended at 8:30 pm. It came and went and the midwives kicked him out about 9 pm. It was really difficult to watch him leave. He contemplated waiting in the car, but I convinced him to go home to get some sleep and keep his cell phone handy. I curled up on the bed an I felt massively alone and strange. At 10:30 pm I started to feel some contractions. They came every 10-15 minutes. I listened to my hypnobirthing relaxation on my ipod. I read some Harry Potter and bounced on a birth ball. I drank a lot of water to try to stay hydrated. By 2 am they were coming very close together and lasting about a minute and a half each time. I was having trouble staying calm through them and started walking around the dark, deserted halls a bit. When I got a contraction, I’d have to lean against one of the walls and focus on my breathing. I asked the midwife if this was considered active labor, and she said they wouldn’t do an internal exam until morning, but to just keep doing what I was doing. Ugh. I wanted Andrew and our doula at this point, but instead they strapped me to the monitors for the next two hours to watch the baby’s heart rate. They were having a hard time getting a good reading. I am pretty sure this is because I simply couldn’t hold still with how powerful my contractions were, but they thought the baby was in trouble. Every time the monitors were steady, they would tell me the baby “was asleep” and I’d have to wait until they could see the baby was more active before removing them. I was totally confused. I remember sending some text messages to our doula just to whine.
At this point I was starting to get pretty annoyed. It was the worst thing ever to be in labor and strapped to the monitors and completely alone. I was not handling things well, because I couldn’t move or get comfortable. I chugged an entire bottle of Gatorade and it tasted like the best thing ever. I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, and I think the midwives just thought not a whole lot was going on with me. At 5 am, after a brief break, I was re-strapped to the monitors. At 6 am, one of the midwives started to actually take notice. I remember getting kind of pissed off and saying over and over, “I want my husband.” They were suggesting something about taking a warm bath to help with the contractions. There was a shower in the bathroom on our ward, but it definitely had “Out of Order” signs on it. So, this suggestion was aggravating me beyond belief. I wanted to get up and walk around, and I really wanted Andrew there. Luckily, the midwives switched shifts and one of the new midwives sat with me for a while. She decided my contractions constituted active labor. I was worried my contractions would stop and I would lose all the progress I had made.
One of the OBs showed up for a minute and looked at the mile-long paper from the heart rate monitor to see if they could break my water. There was some flurry of activity. She said, “Time for labor ward. Right now.” And that was that.
I wasn’t taking anymore shit about visiting hours. I grabbed my cell phone and told Andrew to come right now. And I texted our doula and told her to come as well. One of the midwives helped me gather my things and stuff them into my bag. The contractions were still going full speed, but it felt really good to walk. I wouldn’t let them wheelchair me over to the labor ward.
They brought me into a room in the labor ward and introduced me to Sofia, one of the labor and delivery midwives. She took charge right away. She said since the baby’s heart rate was all over the place, they’d have to keep me on the monitors until the baby was born. This was really disheartening, and I was starting to freak out a bit. I wasn’t going to be able to get out of the bed my entire friggin labor. There were tears and I was burying my head in the pillow. Then they decided to break my water to get things going even stronger. I was almost 4 cms dilated at this point, and things started to get kind of blurry. Sofia was hooking up an IV to give me some fluids. More wires and junk tying me down. All of the sudden, Andrew was in the room. I don’t think he expected things to be this intense quite yet. He walked in and said, “I brought bagels!” Oh, my sweet husband. I was so glad he was finally there. I was just gripping his arm and trying to roll with the contractions. I was told no bagel. The OB was in and out and I could tell there was a lot of hubbub going on. Sofia came to break my water, which coincided with the worst contractions yet. They wanted to insert a fetal monitor that attached to the baby’s head, but I couldn’t deal with that. I already couldn’t move and I felt like this would be worse for both me and the baby. I looked at Andrew and said, “I don’t think I can do this anymore. I can’t do this naturally.” I hadn’t had any pain medicine at that point, but I was quickly losing my ability to cope, since all I could do was lay there. Andrew told me it would be ok, and whatever I needed to do would be fine. He was reassuring, but I could see he was worried.
Right then, Sofia said that my amniotic fluid had blood and meconium in it, and the baby’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction (which were now coming right on top of one another). The OB came and explained that the blood was probably from the placenta detaching (due to being post-term), and that it was dangerous for the baby to be in there. She said that we should do a c-section immediately and get the baby out. Back before I was in labor, this seemed like the worst possible scenario ever. I wanted to avoid a c-section more than anything. But right then, in that moment, I was so concerned about the baby that I didn’t care. I wanted her out and in my arms. It had been such a worry-filled 15 hours so far, that I just wanted to know she was all right.
Everything started happening really fast just then. I was still focusing on trying to get through the contractions. The anesthesiologist came in and was reading me a waiver to sign and telling me about what a spinal block was. Sofia was taking off the monitors and hooking me up to all these bags of IV fluid. Andrew was whisked away and he returned wearing dark blue scrubs. I heard him saying something was too small, and I have expected to see him walk in wearing massively tight scrubs. But apparently, it was the bright Crocs they were stuffing his feet into that were too small. They asked if we had clothes and diaper for the baby, and we didn’t…it was all still in the car. Things were just happening too fast. They had me take off my rings and necklace (I vividly remember fiddling with the necklace clasp mid-contraction), and they stuck a bit of tape over my nose piercing. Andrew came back to my side, lumbering in the tiny Crocs. He instantly went, “There’s tape on your nose,” and plucked it off. So counterproductive…but it made me laugh. The tape went back on, and I was wheeled into an operating room.
They had me sit up for the spinal block. It wasn’t an epidural that stayed it, it was just one shot of drugs to numb me quickly. All of the doctors and nurses in there were coming over to introduce themselves and telling me it would be ok. I had to hold very still for the anesthesiologist, which was so hard to do during the contractions. Sofia told Andrew to let me lean up against him, she pushed him tight against me while I was slumped over and I kind of melted into his arms. I could see the pediatrician in my line of sight. A warming tray for the baby, and a scale, and the tiniest resuscitation and medical equipment you could imagine. It all looked like toys. Suddenly my butt and lower half felt really warm, and then my legs started feeling really heavy. Everyone helped position me on the really skinny operating table. The surgeon was spraying this cold canned-air-type stuff on me to make sure I was numbed all the way. I couldn’t feel a thing below my chest. They put up a sheet in front of my face and Andrew was holding my hand, sitting with his head near mine. We were both getting kind of emotional at this point. I irrationally called out, “Be careful when you do it.” They said I was already cut open and that we were well on our way to meeting our baby.
Suddenly I realized it had all happened too fast and we didn’t have the camera with us. We weren’t going to have any pictures of our baby’s first minutes of life, and I started crying. The only thing that calmed me down was when Andrew looked over and calmly said, “Oh, I can see her over there, she’s out!” The surgeons hadn’t said anything, and this concerned me. I started saying, “Is she OK?” and “What’s wrong?” and “Is it a girl?” over and over. Andrew just kept saying he couldn’t really see. They called Andrew over and this caused me to get even more worried. It felt like ages before he came back.
“It is definitely a girl,” he told me. She was having trouble breathing and they were rubbing her vigorously. It felt like such a long time, but it was probably only a few minutes and then they brought her over to me. She was wrapped in towels and blankets and she had the tiniest hospital bracelet on her little wrist. The pediatrician told me she was going to be fine. She was 6 lbs 5 ounces, and 19.2 inches long. She was born at 9:32 am. She was so, so tiny! Especially for being two weeks late. She didn’t scream or cry at all. They put her on my chest and she just stared. She was amazingly alert and she was absolutely perfect (I specifically asked if she had all her toes, because she was so wrapped up I couldn’t see her feet). It was overwhelming to finally see her. Until this point, she didn’t seem real. But there she was, looking into my eyes. She looked exactly like Andrew. I couldn’t believe it. Andrew was touching her little hands, and we were fascinated by her long fingers and tiny finger nails. We both cried. At some point in those first 30 seconds, we decided her name. I really didn’t want to let go of her, but they had finished closing up my belly and they needed to move me off the operating table (which was kind of a production, given that I couldn’t move below my arms). I handed her to Andrew, and I saw her stare intently at his face. Sofia was telling me that she was beautiful and that I had done a good job. The anesthesiologist kissed my forehead and said that she was perfect. Everyone in that operating room was so nice to us. I will never forget that.
After that, Rosemary didn’t leave my side the whole time I was in the hospital. We were moved back to the room and they put her in my arms. She just stared and stared and took everything in, and still didn’t cry. Our doula arrived right as we were going back into the maternity ward. She went to our car for us and got our baby bag and she took our first picture as a family. She helped as Andrew dressed Rosemary for the first time. The baby clothes were huge—all newborn or 3 month-sized, and Rosemary needed tiny baby stuff. I felt more tired than I had in my whole life and my body was completely numb, but I was trying to stay awake and savor the first magical minutes of our baby’s life. I tried to breastfeed her, but she was not really interested. She just wanted to stare at the lights and our faces and suck her hands.
They said it was time to move up to the postnatal ward and off they wheeled us. Apparently we went in an elevator, but I have no recollection of this. In the postnatal ward, I was in a shared room with five other ladies and their babies. (I would stay here for the next four nights). Andrew went and got me a bottle of Diet Coke and I remember them constantly checking my blood pressure and temperature. It took several hours for the feeling to return to my legs, and I couldn’t even stand up until early the next morning. I mostly held Rosemary and tried to breastfeed her. I had to make this work. I was worried because of the induction and the c-section, my body would fail at this, too. Andrew stayed the whole day, and he changed her diaper for the first time and held her so I could try to nap. He had to leave at 8:30 pm, once visiting hours ended, and then it was just me and baby. The kid did not sleep a wink that night. It was really hard to try to figure stuff out. I was slightly drugged up, but pretty immobile. Every time she cried, I felt guilty for waking up all my roommates and I would quietly try to settle her. Rosemary would set off a chain reaction in all the other babies in the room. It also seemed like every time I would get her to sleep, they would come in to check her blood sugar or temperature or my blood pressure or something, or they would turn on a light near one of the other beds to do something to one of the other ladies. I hadn’t really slept for two nights now, so I was really glad when Rosemary settled down around 6 am. I fell fast asleep, finally.
And that is how Rosemary came into the world. It wasn’t at all how I pictured it, but I was overwhelmingly happy that she was healthy and perfect. She lost weight those first couple of days, and the hospital staff had me pumping. I refused to supplement with formula. I just needed a little time. On the third day, my milk came in, and she was eating expressed milk and starting to get the hang of latching onto me. Breastfeeding, though it is the most natural and wonderful thing, does not come easy or feel natural at first. But we got it down, and she steadily started gaining weight. For this, my body did not fail me or my baby.
The feelings I have for this little person are indescribable. She did not come into this world easily. I know the doctors made a decision based off the health of my baby. And this is NHS…they wouldn’t have done the c-section unless it really and truly was necessary. It is so amazing to me, all of it. And to see Andrew with her. I can’t believe we made this adorable little person (we have a daughter!), and I can’t wait to see what amazing thing she does next.