Written on 5/30/08 (four days after our daughter Annabel was born. 8 lb, 14 oz, 21 inches long. She looks a lot like her big sister.
Ok, so I'll see how much I can type right now, two-handed, with Annabel in a sling, while it's just Annabel and me at home.
Sunday morning (May 25th) we went to church, and all of Geoff's choir from the 9:00 a.m. service was there - normally there are two services, at 9 and 11, but in the summer it switches to one 10 a.m. service, and this particular Sunday was the first of those. The only reason I mention this is that all of these folks in the early choir (who I don't know very well, but who know Geoff, so I'm sure they feel like they know me) kept coming up to me and annoying me. I can't tell you how many of them said, "Are you ready? You look ready!" I was thinking that "looking ready" was equivalent to looking really freaking tired and irritable - oh, and huge, of course. One woman also reached out and rubbed my belly when people were "passing the peace." And there was a LOT of "Oh, so Thursday is the big day!" as if my due date was some sort of guarantee. Also, see 9 months pregnant: I was definitely more irritable than they deserved.
After church, Katie and Geoff and I went for lunch, then came home and took naps. After we got up, Katie and I made chocolate chip cookie dough, and we started doing some more cleaning/straightening around the house. I was sweeping the rest of the living room (I'd started the day before), wearing one of my many Target maternity dresses, at about 6:30 or 6:45 in the evening, when suddenly I felt warm liquid running down my legs, and I knew that was it. I pointed out to Geoff that my water had broken. He was pretty calm about it. I went to get some dry underwear and a towel.
We spent the next couple of hours packing my suitcase for the hospital (I had at least made a list of essentials the week before, so I didn't have to really focus), Geoff called my parents and his parents, we took quite a few family portraits, me sitting on the couch on top of a towel. (I wouldn't have cared if we had actually done this, at that point, but I'd been talking about wanting to do it for weeks, so when Geoff set up the tripod and said we should go ahead, we did.) I kept leaking fluid, which Katie was mildly grossed out by ("I don't like the fluit!"), and which the dog kept licking up if Geoff didn't get to it first (which I was a little grosssed out by, myself). Geoff made some calls to find someone who could come stay with Katie until my mom made it up here from her house, which is about 4 hours away. (Our friend Rebecca, who was our first choice, was out of town for Memorial Day weekend.) I soaked a couple more pairs of underwear before I decided not to put any new ones on. I soaked a few towels. Eventually Geoff heard back from our old neighbors and friends Heather & Arek, who said they'd come get Katie at the hospital and bring her back to our place to wait for my mom. (Thank you, Heather & Arek!) We left for the hospital around 7:45 or so, I think, and got there around 8.
Katie had been born on a Sunday, and my current OB, Dr. Thorpe, had been on call that day, so we wondered if she'd be there this time. It turned out she WAS the doctor on call from 8 a.m. Sunday through 8 a.m. Monday. So we were glad about that. We checked in, and I wasn't really haven't any major contractions. Not a whole lot of fluid was leaking anymore compared to when we were at home. They immediately hooked me up to monitors and took my blood pressure, which was SCARY high at first. Scary to me, anyway - at first it was 157 or something over 95, and then it was 162 over 107. It's never been high like that, so they didn't panic too much, but were concerned enough to take some blood and run some tests and have the doctor come by sooner rather than later. The next time they took it, though, it was 135 over 84 or something, and the rest of the time it ranged between that and down to 113 over 62 or so, so it became a complete non-issue.
They checked my cervix, said the baby wasn't dropped all the way, that I was about 3 cm dilated, about 60% effaced. They hooked me up to monitors, which annoyed me, because I wanted to walk around, which we told them - they said as long as the doctor said it was ok, I could, but because my BP had been so high, I needed to stay put for now. The fetal heartbeat was great the whole time, galloping away in our hospital room. Katie pointed out on her own that it sounded like a horse galloping. I was SO uncomfortable in the stupid hospital bed - I know I wasn't really having much in the way of contractions, because the fact that my lumbar region was unsupported was bothering me much more than anything else. Somewhere in there, they put in an IV, in part for antibiotics.
At some point in there, our friends called Geoff's cell to say they were downstairs to get Katie, so he took her to them. She was pretty worried and scared and was trying to be brave - before she left, she kept giving me hugs and trying not to cry, but crying anyway. She wanted to stay with me, but at the same time was really worried that I might "make loud noises" and "there would be blood" (both things I had told her before just to give her information, not to scare her...oops). After a few minutes of that, though, Geoff took her to them and came back, and then I got the ok to walk around, so we walked up and down the floor a little, but still nothing was really happening, contraction-wise.
It was some point after this that my OB came back and said we might want to consider pitocin. The biggest downside she saw to pitocin was if I wanted to manage without pain relief, because the pitocin would make that really difficult to do. We said we'd think about it. I haven't talked about it here, but my hope was that I could manage without pain relief this time. Last time, with Katie, I had gone for about 16 hours without anything, and then finally, in desperation, crying, thinking I was not going to have the strength to give birth at all, I asked for an epidural. So this time I'd been hoping to handle things differently - do more walking around, letting gravity help, etc. But since my body wasn't doing anything, and we were already at the hospital - and since my water had broken, I wasn't going anywhere - I just decided. I said yes to the pitocin and decided we'd see how it went. They started the pitocin around midnight. For at least a couple of hours, still, not much was going on with contractions. Not regular, not very strong. I was getting really sleepy but didn't really want to sleep - I just wanted to get the show on the road.
Sometime around 2:30 the contractions started getting stronger, and around 3 I decided that I was ready to get an epidural. I didn't feel desperate. I didn't feel like I couldn't do it. I just suddenly felt like, All right, then. This is apparently what my body does - my water breaks, the uterus futzes around for a long time to get through the early stage of labor, and the last stage is pretty quick. And since this is where I am, and these are the tools I have, and since this time I no longer feel like I have to prove anything, I feel totally ok with getting an epidural. I kind of mused on it for awhile, testing to see if I was going to be disappointed in myself (I had been, a little bit, with Katie), and decided I wasn't going to be. So the next time the nurse came back I said I wanted the epidural.
It was almost 4 a.m. by the time they gave me the epidural. At that point the contractions were pretty strong. And I have to say, I HATE that stupid blood pressure cuff that goes off every 15 minutes while you are getting pitocin (and every 3 minutes when they are putting in the epidural). Of course it was worse because the cuff had bad timing - it would go off during the strongest contractions, and was going off during a contraction AND when the anesthesiologist was about to put in the epidural. I told him it was the trifecta, and he laughed and said he'd wait until at least the cuff had stopped. The numbing shot hurt WAY more than I remembered it hurting with the epidural I got with Katie, and I started to cry a little. But other than that, it was fine. It gave me a lot of relief, and even the uncomfortable bed stopped bothering me. I could still feel all of the contractions, though, which again, was different than with Katie. Right before or after the epidural they checked me again and said I was 4-5 cm dilated, and about 80-90% effaced, and that the baby's head was "right there." So I at least felt like I had made some progress before getting the epidural. (I'd been thinking "open...open...open" to myself every time I had a contraction, and it was weird how much that helped me - I could really feel like I was dilating instead of tightening up.)
After the epidural, it was pretty quiet for awhile. I could feel the contractions, but barely, until an hour or so later, when they started getting STRONG again. Geoff came over and sat next to me and kept offering me his hand and telling me to "grip it and rip it" (which I also heard him saying to Annabel on the balcony in the sunshine yesterday, the weirdo), which made me laugh until the contractions got really strong again. I was feeling kind of down at this point, because I was thinking I was in for a long labor like with Katie, who wasn't born until 2:45 pm after getting to the hospital around 8 or 9 pm the night before. I was worried that the contractions felt so strong already, even with the epidural, so we had the anesthesiologist come back and adjust the epidural to give me some more relief - that was around 6:30, I think. Maybe 7. I kept laboring, and the contractions were still REALLY strong to me - way more than I felt any of the contractions after getting my epidural with Katie - and around 8 my doctor came back and smiled and said she wished she could stay for the birth, but her own kids hadn't seen her in a little too long, and that Dr. Brennan would be there soon, etc. Then they checked my cervix, and the nurse looked at her, and Dr. Thorpe said, "she's complete?" And she said yes, maybe just a tiny lip of cervix in the way, but she's 10 cm and the baby's head is right there.
That's when I felt like crying more than at any other point, because I was so relieved, thinking that I was actually going to do this, that it was going to be soon, that this was mostly over, everything was going to be ok, and we were going to get a real baby out of this. I did cry some, and felt kind of hysterical. Dr. Thorpe told the nurse to call the OB on the way and tell her to go back home, because Dr. Thorpe would stay, since we were ready now. They asked me if I was feeling the urge to push, and I said not yet, but about 5 or 10 minutes later, I was feeling it (another thing that I did not feel at all with Katie), and told them so. They got everything ready, Dr. Thorpe asked me if I remembered from four whole years ago how to push, and I said I thought so, and they took me off of various monitors, helped push back my legs, told me to tell them when I was having a contraction.
During the first pushing contraction, the doctor said, "This baby is rocketing towards me!" And the nurse said, "Wow, she's a good pusher!" I felt very proud, which makes me laugh a little, but it's true. I pushed again during a second contraction, and this time after the contraction was over I could feel the baby's head down there even after I'd stopped pushing.
On the third contraction I pushed and pushed as hard as I could, and this whole entire tiny human being slipped out onto the bed in front of me, and she wasn't even very messy. It was 8:31 a.m. She started crying almost immediately. They wiped her off a tiny bit, let Geoff cut the cord (there had been meconium in Katie's fluid, so he didn't get to cut hers), handed her to me to hold, and I just looked at her and cried a little and overall felt really happy. After a little while, they cleaned her up a little more, took her blood sugar (which was a little low the first time, but fine every time after that), weighed her (8 lb 14 oz, one oz heavier than Katie), measured her, and then gave her back to me to nurse her. I hardly felt when the placenta came out. Dr. Thorpe said I had two tiny tears - at first she only saw one - and put one stitch in each. It was all pretty quiet and serene - only 2 nurses, my OB, and me and Geoff. (With Katie there were a lot more people, maybe since it was the afternoon? It's a teaching hospital.) She latched on within a half an hour of being born, probably. She is, in general so far, sweet and calm and completely helpless, and I can't believe that it was only a few days ago that she was still inside me. She looks a lot like her big sister did when she was born.
And there you go. The end of one thing, and the beginning of something even better.
Continuing pictures of Annabel & family are being posted here.