Originally Laurent was due the 9th but I got my wish of having a little longer to enjoy the pregnancy as he was a week late. I had no signs... no braxton-hicks, no show, no back aches or water breaking... nothing. On the evening of the 14th, I woke up an hour after laying down, stretched and it occurred to my sleep addled mind that... *ouch*... yes, that was a contraction. They were about 40-60 seconds long and bounced between 2-5 minutes apart. I waited another hour until I woke my husband up. He half rolled over and looked blearily up at me and said, "Oh, okay. Are you all right?" Was I all right? Did he not just hear me tell him the big event was finally happening! LOL
I moved around the house laboring for about 45 minutes while he drew a bath and put on some essential oils I'd chosen. I got in the tub but only felt more agitated, wanted to get up and move. Darn! I’d been looking forward to the tub! We'd decided on a hosp birth but to spend as much time at home as possible.
The contractions were coming quicker and harder, though still not in a settled pattern and I was talking fairly normally, so when we finally called the hospital, they told me I was probably only just starting. I told Nic, irregular or not, signs or not, these contractions weren't 'starters'. I bundled up, let the dogs out and wished I'd thought to lay out nicer clothes to labor in so it would look nice in the photos! (Yes, you think nutty thoughts in labor!)
I had to wait in the lobby till they had a room to do a VE, during which time I was pretty internally focused, just 'in' my contractions and ignoring everyone.
Still no signs besides the contractions but a suite was opened and we went up. The first thing she did was bin the birth plan right in front of me. Then she asked to do a VE and I agreed as long as that's all it was. (First thing on our list was no augmentation or interference.) Then she told me she'd done a stretch and sweep of membranes while up there. She told me I was 7cm which sort of surprised me. I just expected that far along to hurt a lot worse than it did! I was also really surprised how much breathing through the contractions really did help. I'd always sort of assumed it was mainly to give yourself something to focus on and prevent hyperventilating but it honestly let me ride on top of the pain like a wave instead of inside it.
I did opted for a small amount of epidural, right at the end. Labor was really intense by that point and I'd got to experience most of the labor naturally. From what I've learned after about it's long term effects on babies though and the difficulty we had with breastfeeding, next time I'm going to go all natural.
The epi slowed things down but the pain relief was very welcomed as I was tired of having to debate with the nurse over everything from monitoring to having a bin near my bed. Because the epidural use was pretty minimal, I could still feel my legs, move them, sense the ice cube they ran all over my tummy/legs to test it (?) and feel the contractions as they came and went quite clearly and had no problems knowing when to push later on. (In hindsight, compared to natural birth it was so clumsy though.)
I was tired by this point and asked Nic to get something to eat and grab some scrapbooking magazines for me. About that time they popped back in and announced that I was fully dilated and in a few minutes I should feel the need to start pushing! My water still hadn't even burst! I was sooo excited!!!!! I had no intention of having the baby without Nic though so I told them to call him, page him or get a bloodhound and track him because this baby wasn't being born without him! LOL They found him or he wandered in a minute later... I don't know which but either way he got there just in time. They lanced the waters just before I started to push when I felt the contractions. It took me a few pushes to get the rhythm of breathing without having him slip backwards in progress but after that we made nice, steady progress. I could feel each contraction very clearly and feel him moving down the birth canal. My husband moved down when he crowned and was able to touch his hair.
Just before his head emerged fully, he got a bit stuck with his big head and they were talking about an episectomy as I was already tearing. This is the other reason I want a natural birth next time, so I can walk about, stay off my back which causes more tearing than standing/squatting and look at things like perineal massages etc if bubs gets stuck. It was the one thing I'd reeeeeaaallyyy not wanted... I just really was squeamish about the idea of a scalpel and stitches... I told her NO way and asked my husband to make them stop!
They were trying to convince me and getting out the tools. While they turned, they were talking with Nic to get him to 'reason' with me (smart man, he told them no way he was going to try and con me into anything I'd already said I didn't want) and I felt a contraction coming on. I was annoyed with being talked about like I wasn't there. I heard the midwife say she was excited because it would be her first episectomy. "Hey, women in labor here! Contraction coming on!" Ha! Yeah, remember me? The woman GIVING BIRTH! They turned around and told me by all means to push if I felt the need to with the sort of pat-on-the-head tone that said "whatever amuses you dear", so I did and the midwife had to toss the tools down quickly because out came his head and his shoulders and body followed shortly after. I looked at her, "I told you I wasn't having an episectomy!"
Laurent Etienne was born 5 minutes after 4pm, healthy, hearty and hale. He weighed in at 4.2kg. They toweled him and placed him on my chest and I started helping dry him off and stoking his cheeks and hair. I was struck by how much he looked like his 20 week ultrasound. (We had the 3D/4D kind.) He quieted when we wrapped him in a little closer and quickly settled in to nursel. I was just staring at him, memorizing his face and the way his eyes looked and the way his fingers curled around mine.
I was pretty exhausted as well and just let myself relax while he had a good feed, during which time the placenta was birthed unassisted. (ETA While reading his hospital discharge papers while planning my daughters birth, I later learned they had slipped pitocin in my IV. The one part of his birth I thought I'd done 'by myself' it turns out actually wasn't. And pitocin was something specifically mentioned in the birth plan as a drug I did NOT want.) Eventually they told me I needed to be stitched up as I'd had a second degree tear and lost about 500ml of blood. Nic was able to stay for a little while but had to leave to let the poor dogs out, feed them etc.
Eventually they needed the birthing suite though so they had to get me out. I was exhausted and moving made me woozy, so I knew I had no chance of swinging myself up out of the bed and walking over to the wheelchair for the ride. Sure enough every time I so much as moved I blacked out. The accoucher let me have some toast and juice but they needed the bed. I was hurting when I pulled the stitches. Eventually I managed to get upright into a sitting position and kept a death grip on the bed handle long enough to half-throw, half be dragged into the wheel chair where I promptly blacked out again. She was ordering me to stay awake because she wasn't going to thow out her back catching me tying to tick me off enough to make me stick around. It worked, I was irritated enough to insist I was here, I was just in shock since I'd just birthed a human being and I needed some air thank you very much! I blacked out again, dreamed about a purple spot and soldiers marching in formation (not a CLUE what that means...) and woke up to be told we were going to the showers. I told her I'd be happy to take one later, I wanted to sleep right now. Unfortunately she was having none of it and wheeled me down to the showers where I had to stand up again (and pass out again) to sit on the shower stool. I don't remember much of it other than that Laurent was there in my line of sight and coming to a bit when she whipped the sprayer into my face a couple times with orders to stay awake, which I griped back that I WAS, before I faded back out. Eventually it was over and they wheeled us down to our room where I was more or less poured into bed, glad just to be left alone. I saw the baby wheeled in next to me and fell asleep while they were still looking at my medical charts content they would soon be gone. Let them worry about the paperwork, I had my baby and my bed, that was all I was interested in!
I woke up at about 2 AM, alerting to every baby in the ward's crying. L turned out to be such a snoozy little guy though, the second he fussed I picked him up and fed him, so he never really cried much. (In hindsight, this is probably much because of the epidural having after effect.) He let me know he was hungry by doing little O mouth and grunting. . He slept in the bed with me after that which was one very cool thing... several of the midwives and one of the paeds were telling people to cosleep!
The first day was pretty quiet, I mostly just held him, fed him, changed him and stared at him. Nic was able to come for awhile but since he's the only one I knew, he was my only visitor the whole time. My room-mates however... well the limit was supposed to be 4 guests and during visiting hours only. What a joke! At one point I counted close to 30 people crammed into that room, all of them noisy, kids pushing under the dividing 'curtains' between the beds and the time WELL past visiting hours! (It was quarter to midnight and visiting hours supposedly ended at 8-9 I think.)
The second day, they found he was running a fever and told me they were going to have to give him IV antibiotics. Apparently his test came back at 44 when the maximum acceptable range was 20 and he'd have to be under 7 to go home. The IV was awful. The doctor who came to do it came in the wee hours of the morning and it took about an hour and a half of poking him in all four limbs to establish a line before admiting the lighting was so poor in the room she knew she should have took him up to NICU to do it in the first place. He screamed and struggling the whole time, biting on my nipple hard enough to blister it and he was traumatized before the line was in. After that, he latched onto me and refused to let go... he had a death grip on my shirt, kept his head buried into my chest and wailed hysterically if I tried to move away from him. I ended up falling asleep with him like that in the bed, still clutching me and feeling absolutely awful.
I also developed a fever and had to go on antibiotics. I was still pretty out of it so I don't know exactly what I had but the meds I was getting were just larger doses of the ones he was getting.
A week later we were finally released from the hospital and I was SO glad to be going home! There was one very nice midwife/nurses there that I still miss... she helped us "loose" the discharge paperwork every time they threatened to keep him for IV antibiotics but discharge me. She hugged me when we left and I think I recognized in her eyes she was sad about some of what went on. I was just glad to be away from the doctors and needles and flushes and my room-mates great-auntie's cousin's barber's niece and her half dozen children peeking under my curtain.
On the whole Laurent's birth was a huge experience! The parts before the epidural were amazing, almost spiritual and I gained this whole new appreciation for my body and womanhood in general and just generally felt "connected" to the world around me on a whole new level. I've never been very a "girly" girl but it really allowed me to see the inherently positive, unique things and strength I had to offer not just as a person but as a woman in specific. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I would have liked to have done things a little differently as far as giving birth at the hospital... I'm leaning more towards either homebirth or a birthing center next time. I would have liked to stay in a home environment, to have midwives only, to have a doula, to have my husband rooming in after and not to be subjected to the briskness in care I was after. (To be fair, 3 nurses care for a ward of 30+ patients so I understand they're run off their feet at times but I still felt it was a bit harsher than it needed to be and was annoyed they don't enforce their own rules.)
Anyway that's our very, very, very long birth story!
I am all emotional tonight, remembering my labor and his birth. I can't believe it was a year ago. It seems like yesterday. He had such a tiny squishy little face and the most amazing eyes. There is nothing like looking into those eyes for the first time. I am so amazed at the little person he's becoming... such a little individual, so determined, so happy. So many emotions all at once wrapped up in this mother gig!