If you missed part 1, check it here.
So. Where were we? Oh yes, in the bathroom.
I sat on the toilet, which is a surprisingly good place to labor. I’ve heard that from many moms, but didn’t find that to be true at all when I was in labor with Natalie. It felt awful then, but was pretty solidly ok this time around (as ok as anything can be when you’re at that point in your labor). I rested there for a few contractions before I realized that I was bleeding. Kind of a lot.
“I think you should call the midwife,” I yelled to Will through the bathroom door.
Aside from the midwife checking on the baby’s heart rate every twenty or so minutes, Will and I had been left to our own devices. I adore this about midwives, because it really allows you to settle in and do your thing without a bunch of extra people hovering and machines beeping and generally rousing you from what is a very primal state. In addition to the normal “hands-off until you need me” approach, our midwife was also seeing patients who were not in the middle of having a baby and had directed us to call her if we needed anything.
“Ok,” Will said, “Do I use the emergency button?”
“No, isn’t there, like, a regular phone out there or something? Can you call upstairs?”
“I don’t know, I’m not sure what button to press…”
And then a slightly terrifying realization cut through the fog in my brain as Will was still talking to me about how to reach the midwife: I had to push.
“WILL I NEED YOU IN HERE CALL THE MIDWIFE RIGHT NOW IT’S AN EMERGENCY I NEED TO PUSH AND I DON’T THINK I’M SUPPOSED TO!”
That was the only thought in my head: this can’t be right, the baby can’t be coming right now, my water hasn’t even broken yet and we only got here a few hours ago.
Obviously I was 100% wrong. I should’ve had Will call the midwife as soon as I asked him to apply counterpressure to my hips, because it’s glaringly obvious to me now that I was in transition and my body was giving this baby the boot. RIGHT MEOW.
The midwife flew into the room a minute later to find me leaning against the bathroom doorway, panting through a contraction because I was pretty sure I’d read somewhere that that’s what you do to stop yourself from pushing. It apparently worked, because I didn’t have an accidentally-unassisted birth in the bathroom. Huzzah! I repeated to her that I was bleeding and needed to push, and she and a nurse led me firmly and with great speed to the bed.
She checked me and found that I was fully dilated and Olivia’s head was rightthere. And then my water broke. Wait, let’s try that sentence again: my water EXPLODED. Will is not prone to exaggeration for dramatic effect, and that was the word he used, so let’s go with that.
When Natalie was born, the midwife broke my water herself right before I started pushing. I remembered that quite clearly: a small popping noise, then a rush of wetness as the amniotic fluid flowed out.
This was more like the impact of a too-full water balloon smacking onto the pavement. EXPLODED.
Not that I had any time to contemplate that, however, since hi hello yes I STILL NEED TO PUSH.
With the midwife’s blessing and knowing that I was so, so close to meeting our baby girl, I squeezed Will’s hand as hard as I could and bore down with all the force my muscles could bear. The first few seconds of the first push were terrible and ineffective and I knew it, and then all my Hypnobirthing practice took over. The high-pitched strangled noises I was making deepened into a low, sort-of humming sound, and I pictured moving that breath all the way down and out.
(I know I KNOW this all sounds so hippy-dippy, but by god it works for me. Your mileage may vary but I really can’t speak highly enough of Hypnobirthing.)
I pushed through the rest of that contraction and I knew I was almost done. I rested for just a moment as that contraction passed, and mentally prepared myself as I felt the wave of the next one rising.
This. Was. It.
As my belly tightened and the undeniable urge to push grabbed hold of me, I gave it my all and out popped Olivia’s head. And then I was confused why a baby wasn’t immediately placed on my chest, because what do you mean I’m not done yet?
The contraction subsided but damned if I was going to wait for the next one to get this baby out. Besides, what’s a measly little set of shoulders compared to a gigantic baby head? The hardest part was over. So I pushed once more and then…
…she was here. My squalling, slimy, absolutely-perfect-in-every-way baby girl was here. The midwife lifted Olivia to my chest and all I could do was repeat, “Oh my god” over and over, because what else are you to say when suddenly another person exists in the world, a person you’ve spent the last nine months getting to know but haven’t met yet?
The immediate postpartum minutes are a little hazy for me, since I was a little busy counting tiny fingers and gently touching the fine, downy hairs on the edge of Olivia’s ears. I know that I delivered the placenta, and gave the midwife a slightly confused look when she asked if we wanted to see it. Nah, we’ll pass on that. I know that I had a small first-degree tear that was quickly stitched up after a shot of local anesthetic (thankfully natural birth doesn’t extend that far). And I know that since I never got in my second dose of antibiotics, the midwife said that she’d have to run a few extra blood tests on Olivia to check for any sign of infection. I didn’t think much of it.
Will and I spent the rest of the afternoon calling family members to share the good news, napping when we could, and enjoying this little window of time with just the three of us. We were required to stay twelve hours after the birth, and as the day wore on we looked forward to heading home at 11:00 p.m.
Buuuut that didn’t happen. The first blood test showed that she was coombs positive, which means that at some point during either the pregnancy or the birth, my blood (O-) and Olivia’s (B+) mixed. The test found antigens that could potentially cause severe jaundice or anemia. The second showed an elevated white blood cell count, which is a red flag for potential infection, which is Bad News since I didn’t have time to get my second dose of antibiotics.
The same test a few hours later told us that her white blood cell count was still on the rise, and the midwife gently broke the news to us that we would not be going home; we’d be going to the NICU.
It’s not as dire as it sounds, she told us; we were going purely for observational purposes. When a baby is transferred from that birth center to the hospital, they HAVE to go to the NICU. That’s just the procedure and it doesn’t matter if they’re very ill or, like Olivia, they appear to be 100% fine but should still be monitored. The midwife told us that should an infection arise as a result of the Group B strep, we really needed to be in the hospital. It’s rare, but the infection comes on quickly and can be fatal before the parents realize it’s serious enough to take their baby to a doctor.
Ok, you’ve sufficiently scared the crap out of me, let’s go.
The transfer team arrived that evening and it was only then that I realized they wouldn’t let me go with Olivia. I had been picturing an ambulance ride where I could sit in the back with her, but that wasn’t the case. Apparently they’re “not set up for that” and we were told to give them an hour before we arrived at the hospital.
So they bundled my 8-hours-old baby into an incubator and wheeled her away from me as I fell into Will’s arms and sobbed. She was, and is, completely healthy, but the shock of not being able to leave the birth center and go home and instead having to drive, just the two of us, to the hospital, was completely overwhelming.
We stayed at the hospital for two nights. We scored a room where I could sleep, and the nurses determined that Olivia’s crib could stay there, too. The only catch was that she had to be hooked up to this ridiculous monitor (for her…the NICU and all its technology serves a very, VERY important purpose and I’m not knocking it) with cables everywhere that made it difficult to breastfeed her without dislodging them.
Spawn of Satan itself.
I’m not convinced the monitor did anything except serve as a sleep deprivation torture experiment. It would periodically decide that something or other had been disconnected when it clearly was still RIGHT THERE ON HER DAMN FOOT YOU STUPID MACHINE and would BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP incessantly until it decided oh, ok, there it is.
The worst was the second night. I was alone, since Will had gone back to the house to be with Natalie. Olivia was nursing continuously nearly all night, and when she wasn’t nursing, she only wanted to be in my arms. I spent most of the night in a not-so-comfortable recliner, watching HGTV from roughly the same angle you’d get in the front row of a movie theatre, since I had to stay within a 5-foot radius of the monitor. Finally, finally, at 5 a.m. I was able to swaddle her and carefully, carefully put her down in her crib. For the first time all night, she didn’t cry — she stayed asleep and I almost cried with relief as I crawled into the bed.
And then at 5:30 a.m. all hell broke loose, because Olivia’s monitor decided that HER HEART HAD FREAKIN’ STOPPED.
There’s nothing quite like the sound of an alarm screaming that your baby has flatlined to send you bolting out of bed. I stood shaking in front of her crib, completely bewildered, as she turned her head to the side, smacked her lips, and sighed. Totally fine. Definitely, 100% alive.
I checked all her sensors and they were still in place, so I don’t know why the machine suddenly decided to terrorize us like that. I waited probably five minutes until a nurse breezed into the room and manually reset the alarm. The nurse that ultimately ended up discharging us thinks that there was something wrong with the monitor itself and was mystified about its many, many needless alarms. Lovely! Thanks so much!
Those were not good nights.
We were discharged that afternoon, thank god, because I really don’t know how I would’ve survived another night with that godawful monitor. I didn’t have to find out, though, because we were on our way home.
When we got back I squeezed Natalie so, so tightly and cried because I’d missed her, missed Will, missed HOME so much. My heart goes out to any parent whose child has had to spend time in the NICU, because I only experienced NICU-light for two nights and it was awful enough. That’s nothing, I know, but I’m still upset about it two weeks later.
But I’m focusing on the positives. Olivia’s birth itself was just as amazing an experience as Natalie’s was, and I’m grateful I was able to be at the birth center for it. I only have good things to say about that part.
Even if I didn’t get to use the tub.
Maybe next time.