Today is our sweet littlest lady’s 3rd birthday. It is always powerful to look back and think about the experience and emotion involved in her arrival. As a running ambassador for Every Mother Counts, I know that it is important for women to come together and share their birthing stories and to discuss their experiences.
So, today, I’ll share mine and Mari’s story.
Mari’s birth story is quite different than the story that accompanies the arrival of our first daughter, Audrey. But Audrey’s birth and that experience are what helped shape Mari’s arrival. Audrey’s labor was fast and furious, after 3 days of prodromal labor and contractions every 8 minutes during the daytime hours, my water broke at 9:45 p.m. We arrived at the hospital at 11:00 p.m. and Audrey literally flew out at 1:01 a.m. She was taken to the Level 2 nursery immediately with an Apgar score of 4. Brent watched the doctor flip her over and encourage her to “come back to us baby, come back to us…” Brent stayed by her side the entire time and watched her oxygen saturation plummet and rise, her heart rate try to stabilize and couldn’t touch her or hold her while she had wires and tubing coming off her in every direction. Ultimately, all of these complications could be tied to her fast arrival.
Due to the speed of Audrey’s arrival and the progress I was making – as of Monday, August 1 I was 4 cm and 75% effaced and baby’s head was at a +1 station – my doctor (Dr. M) wanted to break my water to try to jump start labor. This would ensure several things for us; a) I was GBS+ and I knew I would get the antibiotics I didn’t have time to receive when Audrey arrived hopefully keeping the little one inside of me completely prophylaxed, b) that I wouldn’t have another precipitous labor and birth with the chance of it being unaccompanied at home without Brent there, and c) that both baby and I would be under watchful eye if things did get crazy fast again – knowing that he or she would have the help they needed.
On Friday, August 5, I went back to the doctor for an 8:15 a.m. appointment. Dr. M did an internal exam and said I was at 5 cm. The plan originally was to head to the hospital immediately after than and start antibiotics and have my water broken around lunch time. Turns out – even when you think you have some “control” you really don’t – the hospital’s birth center had a change in staffing and could not accommodate an induction until Saturday morning. We spent all week gearing up, mentally preparing and getting things done around the house to feel ready for baby’s arrival – and then we had to shift down for the afternoon only to pump up for everything the next morning. Overall, we had a great day – coffee date for Brent and I at our favorite coffee shop and then a fabulous evening with *almost* big sister, Audrey.
And then….it was Saturday. Eviction day. Our “planned” birthing day. Which went a little something like this:
8:02 a.m. Arrived at the hospital
8:17 a.m. Settling into our room with an amazing view of Lake Superior – one large ship waiting to enter the harbor was in perfect view.
8:30 a.m. Dr. M stops in to say hi. Dr. W the resident stops in as well.
9:45 a.m. First round of antibiotics started through IV.
11:30 a.m. Order our first round of “room service” so that Brent can eat a large lunch – even though the nurse says clear liquids only – Dr. M told me to eat up and enjoy as well. Meat loaf, potatoes, steamed carrots and a delicious brownie. Mmmm.
12:33 p.m. Dr. M breaks my water as we’re jamming to “Summer Hits of the 90s” on Pandora. Alanis Moirsette’s “Ironic” is playing. I will always think of my bag of waters getting broken when I hear this song from now on. Dr. M says I’m now at 7cm and baby’s head is at +2 station.
1:04 p.m. Brent and I walk the halls, laugh, hold hands and joke around. Gentle contractions start coming every 15 minutes. A large thunderstorm starts brewing over the lake – gorgeous! Our doula, Caralee, arrives and is ready for the long haul – bag lunch packed, crossword puzzles and books to read.
3:44 p.m. Dr. M stops by again – we all place bets on baby’s gender and size. Unanimous vote for boy – weights ranging from 7#5 oz (Brent) to 8#5oz (Dr. M).
5:00 p.m. Brent and I watch “The Way Back”. I try to use the hospital grade breast pump to get contractions closer together – I get them to every 6 minutes, but can’t get them closer or more intense.
6:35 p.m. Dr. M recommends we start Pitocin and thinks a small dose will really kick start things. Brent eats a salmon dinner – I steal quite a few bites.
8:00 p.m. We start a Pitocin IV. I start munching on shot blocks and sipping some apple juice. The clock was taken off the wall earlier in the day (I was checking it too often) – so the exact timing of the evening’s events are probably quite off.
Everyone says Pitocin is this evil drug…that labor is unbearable…that it is far worse than “regular” labor. My labor with Audrey was so intense, that I had only that experience to compare it to. To be honest, this was “easier.” The pitocin clearly did the trick for me. The nurse started the IV and increased the dose every 30 minutes. The first (low) dose didn’t seem to do much – I wasn’t really feeling anything at all. The second “level” brought some change and I felt like I had to be on my feet and rocking and hula hoop-hipping through each contraction (now 10 minutes or less apart). Brent and I walked the halls dragging along the IV pole and held hands. It felt SO good to be close to him and it relaxed me to feel his strength and support – even with something as simple as wandering through the birthing unit. As we walked, I could tell things were getting stronger and closer. I had to stop walking and breathe and rock through the contractions. I knew my body was starting to bring our baby closer with each tightening of my abdomen and deep breath. I knew that I wanted to be back in our room after a stronger contraction right in front of the nursery (and a large group of people oodling over a new baby in there).
As soon as we got to our room, I had to be on the birthing ball (luckily Caralee had already had our nurse bring one in). Brent turned on the “Adele” channel on Pandora (my current chill fave). This was the absolute perfect choice – relaxed, strong and filled with soul. At first Brent was on the bed and I sat on the ball in between his legs – I held on to his thighs as I rocked and circled my hips through each contraction. Caralee was behind me gently putting pressure on my low back. As Mari started to descend through my pelvis, I started to have very strong back labor. Caralee continued to put counter pressure on my back just above my sacrum – it helped so much as babe worked her way down. I laid my head down on pillows on the edge of the bed and held onto Brent’s hands – I felt so relaxed in between contractions (Caralee commented that some people fall asleep right before they transition – which I felt like I could!). Brent knew exactly how to hold me and what to say. After a trip to the bathroom to pee, I started to feel incredibly shaky. Caralee looked me in the eyes and said, “You remember this part Kayla! It gets strong. It gets intense. It can be scary. And most of all, its going to move fast.” Through my shakes, I nodded in agreement and wanted to be back on the ball. Brent sat behind me. With each contraction, he held me and I snuggled in. We got through each contraction, each painful pulse of my body together – holding each other tightly and knowing that I couldn’t do it without him and his constant radiating strength. I would cuddle in and feel his love and immediately relax. Being so close felt so good. It is strange to say that it was absolutely romantic to experience labor with him like this. Not many people would call labor romantic!
I honestly don’t know how long I was on the ball cuddling with Brent. It was relaxing and intense all at the same time. After some time, I felt the urge to use the bathroom again. Sitting on the toilet brought with it lots of pressure in my pelvis – Caralee later told me that we naturally relax our bottoms when we sit on the toilet so it helped move things along – I knew this pressure and this urge really meant we were coming closer to meeting our babe. While I was on the toilet, I could tell Caralee knew you were coming soon, too! She kept peering between my legs. She had the nurse page Dr. M because I told her I was starting to feel the urge to push. When I got out of the bathroom, Dr. M was there and she wanted me to climb into bed (if that was where I wanted to have you). With Brent by my side, I eased my way into the bed (it sounded comfy) and rolled onto my right side. Brent held me on the left side and sat next to me. Dr. M told me that the baby’s head was “right there” and that with my next contraction I could slowly start helping Mari out. Audrey arrived so quickly I wanted to slow things down when it was time to push this time. I did everything in my power to avoid any tears and such a fast arrival. Dr. M paged Dr. W, the resident, and Shelia, our nurse, called in her “second.”
This part of Mari’s arrival is so vivid and clear to me. With each contraction I would breathe and slowly push. In between contractions I would lean back into Brent and rest – almost enough to feel like I was “sleepy” – I just would close my eyes and find the strength from Brent’s hand and heart and my own power as a birthing woman. This deep peace would wash over me and would bring me the the courage to breathe and push when the next contraction came. Dr. M and Caralee gently and quietly encouraged me. The whole room felt silent – I shut everyone out and it seemed as if it were only Brent and I there. The pressure in my bottom and back were getting so very intense – I could feel myself just want to quit at one point. Dr. M and Caralee both told me to “go towards the pain and accept it.” With Brent’s help I felt like I was able to do just that. Relaxing and starting to bear down and work with my body to push and bring our new baby into this world. Each contraction started to bring a stronger urge to push. Dr. M literally sat back and let me do what my body knew to do. Although the room had 6 other people in it, it remained quiet and almost serene. After 25 minutes of pushing, Dr. M told me that the next pushes would bring our baby to us. I felt like I really had to dig deep and from within, but I instinctively reached down with my final push and brought Mari to my bare chest. Brent and I kissed each other, our new babe and tears of joy and accomplishment fell down my cheeks. We both stared at our baby in awe. Baby’s eyes were wide open and she was covered in vernix, but our sweet baby was absolutely perfect. We were immediately overcome with the most intense love there is. Then someone in the room asked your gender and I lifted up the baby’s legs and looked right at Brent and said, “We have another girl!” We just soaked her in while she laid on my chest. We kissed, we cried, we laughed…we were overjoyed! A healthy baby girl! After awhile Dr. M had Brent cut the cord. The nurses eventually weighed the babe in at 7 pounds, 3 ounces. She tried to nurse after some serious snuggle time with Brent. While she was nursing, I asked Brent who we had here – he said he knew the minute he held her that she was our Mari. And so there she was, our sweet Mari Cate. Born August 6th, 2011 at 10:57 p.m.
While the start of labor was not how I pictured it would happen – the delivery was perfect. It was a beautiful experience. And although we had to have pitocin and an artificial rupture of my membranes, we were able to have a natural delivery and work together as a couple to bring our second baby girl into the world.
In honor of Mari’s 3rd birthday, please consider donating to support Every Mother Counts.