A few days ago, I found this letter I wrote to Grace when she was one month old. I'm so grateful that I took the time document her birth story, and that I can look back on this memory today. It's a little edited...it was 12 pages long.
I can't believe you've been with us an entire month now! I've always loved birth stories, and want to make sure I capture yours. This is one of the best memories of my life, but the details are fading fast. It's now or never!
Your birth was a lot like our journey to get pregnant...long, drawn out, close to quitting, and then--there you were! Your dad and I were supposed to deploy to Iraq in April, and had agreed that January was our last month of trying. And then, there was a faint pink line.
Your dad left for Iraq on April 27th. I was 18 weeks pregnant, and finally starting to "pop." Your dad loved it! He kept saying, "You FINALLY look pregnant!" Little did he know that 21 weeks later, that belly would be HUGE!
18 weeks and finally bumping!!!
Sometime around the beginning of the third trimester, I realized I was really comfortable with pregnancy but hadn't given a second thought to childbirth! I started researching, and after lots and lots of reading and reflecting, decided that I wanted a natural childbirth. Our midwife, Ms. Chew, was absolutely supportive of my birth plan. But there was one contingency we talked about: what if you didn't come before Dad's mid-tour leave ended? Did I want to be induced? My answer was absolutely yes! As much as I wanted a natural childbirth, I wanted to share the moment with your dad even more.
The final bump picture I took on September 21st.
Your Daddy flew home on September 15th, the day after my 28th birthday. Your due date was September 23rd, but I hoped you’d come sooner! Despite the anxious nerves, we really, really got to enjoy a week reconnecting. We got to work out, hike, go out for dinner, and have a few last date nights, too! I was scheduled to be induced on my due date--what Ms. Chew called a "social induction." The days ticked by, and finally we went to final appointment with our midwife, Ms. Chew, on September 22nd. From what Ms Chew could tell, you were happy camping out!
Daddy and I went to the hospital at 7am on September 23rd. After the in processing and getting settled in a delivery room, the midwife gave my my first round of cervidil a little before 10am. Cervidil was just a pill I took, and it was supposed to help my cervix efface and dialate. After 4 hours, I had progressed from 2cm to 3cm, and 70% to 80% effaced -- enough progress to move on to Pitocin!
Ready to get the show on the road!
Eight hour later, I was getting the maximum dose of Pitocin and I was having regular contractions, for about 30 seconds at a time every 2-3 minutes. You could see my stomach tighten and squeeze you. But the contractions weren’t “hurting.” Which meant that they weren’t pushing you out. Our doula Carly kept shaking her head, "Unless you have a supernatural pain tolerance, you shouldn't be this comfortable." Sure enough, the new midwife on call confirmed there was no progress at all.
Just before midnight, they took me off Pitocin. The midwife let me eat (Dad brought Wendy's!), and then we started two more rounds of cervidil. Daddy slept on the floor while Carly, slept on the sleeper sofa. I remember feeling so bad…we all just wanted to have you arrive, safe and healthy. It was my job to go into labor, and I was failing pretty epically!
Daddy and I had a pretty good heart-to-heart with our midwife, our nurse team, and Carly right before the 7am shift change. It had been close to 24 hours, and my progress was about equivalent to if I had taken a warm bath. In my mind, I just wanted you out...I want them to break my water, or to just do a C-section (yes, I was going a little crazy). Since it was a social induction and I still wasn't significantly overdue, they gave us the option to call it quits. To send me home. Basically, I had a failed induction. You weren't ready to be born.
Just casually waiting to go into labor
We decided to try one more 4-hour round of Pitocin. I started on a low dose at 8:30am. The contractions came again, and while they were still mild they were definitely a little different. Around 9:30, I went to the bathroom and realized my urine looked a little funky. Carly took one look, and gave me great news -- my water broke! Daddy called the midwife, who confirmed and let us know I was now at 4 cm!
I don't remember a lot of the rest. Things got painful really, really quickly between 9:30 and 11:30. Until about 11, I could relax through the contractions either standing or rocking on the birth ball. By 11:30, the pain level had shot THROUGH THE ROOF. I was barely able to function; I begged for an epidural. My progress over the previous 24 hours was so slow, and I couldn't imagine being in that much pain for another 24 hours. I BEGGED for an epidural, but I think Dad and our nurse Heidi delayed the request because I was so adamant not to use one in my birth plan.
They did agree to give me Demerol, an intravenous painkiller that would help "take the edge off." Before giving me Demerol, they needed to apply an internal fetal heart rate monitor and a contraction probe. You were moving so much that the external ones kept dropping, and monitoring is a huge requirement for induction. That process was, quite possibly, the WORST part of the entire labor. There were three sets of hands trying to reach up my cervix and place a tiny monitor on your skull while I was contracting one out of every two minutes.
Thankfully, the Demerol kicked in right away. I'd still feel the pain of each contraction, but it wasn't "take your breath away" pain. In between, I could relax and basically feel asleep for the minute or so between contractions.
Pure misery between contractions
A little after noon, I told your dad that a) I still really wanted an epidural and b) I need to poop. He wasn't sure what to do, so he got Heidi. Well, after a quick cervical check, Heidi let us know it wasn't poop...it was your head! Time to push! Heidi had me do a practice push and it felt AMAZING.
I was able to hold my own legs through 50 minutes of pushing. Daddy said it was hilarious. I'd push, then I'd basically fall asleep for a minute between because the Demerol was making me drowsy. About halfway through, Heidi asked if I wanted a mirror to watch. I immediately said, "NO WAY," but Daddy knew better. He told Heidi it would help motivate me, and she set it up. Well, Daddy was right. As soon as the mirror was up and I COULD SEE YOUR HEAD, my pushes became much more effective!
A lot of people talk about the "ring of fire" but I have no memory of it. I DO remember a lot of pressure and an intense feeling of relief when your head popped out. It felt so good, I gave one more push even though I wasn't contracting, and your whole body was out! You were "officially born" at 1:28pm.
They placed you on my chest right away, then took you for a minute to clear your lungs. My first memory of you if you lifting your little turtle-like neck to look around and take in a big breath of air. I held you for a few minutes, but the midwives had to stitch me up and it was extremely uncomfortable without pain medication. I was on edge, and asked Dad to take you to get cleaned up. Once you were wiped off, measured, and weighed, and I was cleaned up too, we picked up right where we left off.
One of my favorite pictures ever. Our first minutes together.
Dad and I had picked your name months ago, but it took a few minutes to say it out loud. After a few minutes of calling you, "Baby Girl" and "Sweet Girl," someone asked for your name. Duh...Grace. You were Grace Elizabeth. 8 pounds, 5 ounces, and 21 inches of Grace Elizabeth.
First family picture, the morning after you were born.
I wanted a peaceful, natural childbirth experience. I imagined laboring at home, and only spending a few hours in the hospital. I wanted to go medication-free. Instead, I got a 30-hour, near-failed induction, IV's full of every synthetic hormone known to man, anxiety and desperation. But you knew exactly what you were doing. You waited for just the right moment, then literally kicked your way out. Keep kicking, Gracie Girl.
October 24, 2016