By Heather Price
I think it was around 5:30 am that my water broke while I was in the tub. It was mid contraction that I felt the water gushing out into the tub. We made it through the contraction and then I told Briley my water had just broken, and we needed to go ahead to the hospital. I was GBS positive, so needed to head in to get IV antibiotics. At this point contractions were 4 to 5 minutes apart. Briley got into hyper mode grabbing bags, pillows, a damp washcloth, and anything else I asked him for! We got in the car and turned the AC up full blast. I had my headphones on with my birth/relaxation playlist, and I put it on repeat with the volume up to help me focus for the drive. I kept my eyes closed most of the ride, and would slap/pat Briley’s hand or arm during the very, very intense contractions. Employing some of that Rhythm, Relaxation, and Ritual that Penny Simkin writes about! I’d also grip the door handle and breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth to stay calm and focused. I felt like I was coping very well through the waves of the strong contractions.
I was wearing Depends and sitting on a towel, and the water continued to gush out at intervals throughout our drive. I think we got to the hospital around 6:30 am—it was right before shift change. We pulled up to the valet parking at Vanderbilt, and Briley left me in the car to go in and get a wheelchair because I could not walk all the way in. The valet also went in to get a wheelchair. I got a little tense/nervous with Briley walking away from me. When he got back seconds later I had to rally myself to get out of the car.! It took a lot of focus and determination for me to coordinate all my limbs, get out, and get in the wheelchair. At this point I believe I was in transition.
We got in the elevator and up to Labor and Delivery to get checked in. I continued with regular contractions and had to rely on Briley to talk for me or wait for a contraction to pass. We got into a small triage room and the midwife on call, Claire, and a student midwife whose name I cannot remember both did a cervical check and said I was at a 9 or 10—so the hard part of labor was really already passed. Very soon we moved down to a delivery room and they had to hook up an IV for antibiotics. They had to try many times to get the IV in and it was very, very uncomfortable on top of the contractions—I remember this so clearly!! The poking over and over again was so frustrating. I recall getting really short with the nurse who was making the IV placement attempts—I think at one point I just yelled at her to LEAVE ME ALONE. I yanked my hand away and stuck it under my leg. Ha!
Finally, they did get the IV inserted and we worked on getting Jude to turn—he was facing up at that time. Our midwives, Lauren Drees and Lindy (Mason) Lynn (a midwifery student) helped us try different positions, including hands and knees, rocking, and squatting. When we were squatting, the amniotic fluid that was draining out was green, which indicated meconium in the fluid. That meant a NICU team had to come in the room to be ready to help baby Jude as soon as he was born—to suction his airway if needed, and make sure he didn’t inhale any meconium.
We had an ocean waves soundtrack going the whole time and I kept my eyes closed almost the whole labor and delivery except for a few moments to look at Lauren or Briley. Briley was a wonderful birth partner-holding my hand, making sure I drank plenty of water, offering encouraging words. At one point he was giving me water and a little dripped on me and I snapped at him—a customary “crazy lady in labor” thing, right?!
At some point labor sort of “stalled”—contractions spaced out a lot. I was laying on my side, keeping my eyes closed, grumbling/growling through contractions when they came, but everything was really quiet for a while. I think we hung out like this for an hour or more—fully dilated, but no urge to push really. The reason became clear later.
We tried to stay focused. Lauren suggested Pitocin to get things revved up again, saying that if we didn’t keep things moving we might have to augment more or consider additional interventions. I really didn’t want anything to augment or intervene in my labor, so kind of hesitated when she suggested it. While they were trying to get the Pitocin going, I started to feel the urge to push. It started slow at first, but got stronger and stronger and harder. The midwives and one nurse helped me hold my legs and cheer me on. I was in a semi-seated pushing position for the first while, and then moved to my back with my legs flexed quite a bit to get more traction as pushing went on longer and longer.
One of the midwives was helping to guide Jude’s head out and put counter-pressure on my perineum. They encouraged me to push when I felt the urge with a contraction and to rest in between. During a break between contractions I remember being very clear-headed and talkative, and saying that I was so glad Jude was being born on an even-numbered day, and on the first day of summer. I have this weird thing about numbers, and was so glad his whole birthdate was even numbers: 6-20-2012. What a strange thing to be thinking and talking about during labor!
Jude’s head crowned and they asked me if I wanted to watch with the mirror, but I declined. I did reach down to touch the top of his little head and that was sweet—and a good motivator to continue with the hard work! It had taken me a while to learn how to push effectively—the first long while of pushing was not productive . Finally I figured out how to push sort of “down and out” and we made a lot of progress that way. After just the very top of his head crowned I had a major urge to push and could not stop it. I let my body push on its own.
I didn’t know it right then, but Jude’s arm was up by his head—and he came the rest of the way out with an arm by his face, so I tore very, very badly. But after that big body-doing-it-by-itself urge to push hard, he was born! Looking back, we knew why the urge to push didn’t happen as soon as usual, and why I pushed for about 2.5 hours—because of that arm being up!
I felt every bit of his birth, felt his little squishy body slide out. Briley caught him after his head was born and pulled him up and placed him on my chest. I’ll never forget Briley’s bright, smiling, tired, and teary face looking at me as he placed our son on my chest. A happy, fulfilling moment of relief! Jude was born at 10:27 am, after less than 8 hours of labor and pushing. The NICU team had to check Jude out for just a minute and clear his airway, and then we got him back and I held him and tried nursing for about 20 minutes before I passed him to Briley while they started on my repair.
I had to have nitrous and then an epidural, and then transfer to an OR for my 3rd-degree tear repair with an obstetrician. I was separated from Jude for quite some time—I think a couple or three hours. Briley held him skin to skin for a while while we were still in the labor and delivery room, and then Briley came with me and the nurses took baby Jude to the nursery so we could get through the surgical repair process. That was a very hard time, and led to a difficult, long physical recovery for me.
Our introduction to parenting was challenging and rewarding in so many ways. I had an excellent labor and delivery experience. Then a hard recovery that contributed to a lengthy journey through postpartum depression and anxiety. And, that was made more difficult by having a baby who was sensitive, colicky, and who did not sleep well. Breastfeeding was very hard for the first several weeks, as Jude was tongue-tied. We had the tongue revised and that improved nursing dramatically, and allowed us to continue nursing for 15 months.
So many factors are at play in birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Every new family, or growing family faces different joys and challenges, some hard days and some lovely days. The first several months with Jude in our lives were exhausting and so hard for me. I like to say that he trained us well! We learned so much about ourselves, and about real-world parenting for each individual child. We learned a lot about Jude too, and to be patient and gentle with ourselves.
The two best pieces of advice I received were:
From our midwife and friend, Lauren Drees: “Take it one MOMENT at a time.”
From my husband, specifically related to nursing in those hard, early days: “Let’s do it (nurse) just for today. Just one more day, and then we can reasses tomorrow.”
(I followed that advice for 15 months!)
We are coming up on Jude’s 4th birthday in just a couple of weeks, and goodness! What a joy and light he is. It is a delightful gift to watch our children learn and grow—and also bittersweet as they mature and become more independent. In November 2015 we had our second baby, our now 7-month old girl, Rosamund. The love is deep and wide, and our hearts are full.
You can read Rosamund Blythe’s birth story on the Baby+Co blog here.