Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Harper's Birth

I've always been fond of reading birth stories that other bloggers post, so I wanted to post mine as well.  Luckily, Tony (unprovoked) took notes as we were at the hospital, since he knew I would want to remember the details.  I also wrote much of this out for myself, to look back on and remember.  So, if you are interested, the extremely long, unnecessarily-detailed version is below.  Harper's birth was a great experience and I am so happy with how it turned out.  Almost makes me eager to have another one - then I look down at the spit up stains on my robe I've worn for a week straight and rethink that ;) 

On Tuesday, July 24th, Tony and I got up early to go walking before he went to work.  We were planning on going again that night, to try to get as much walking in as possible to encourage baby to go ahead and come to avoid an induction.  I then called the OB to see which doctor was working which days for the following week, assuming I would go over my due date and have to get induced.  We figured Aug 1st would be her birthday.  Tony’s parents then took me out shopping and to lunch to get me out of the house.  I still felt normal (besides hugely pregnant).  

Hello puffy fluid face

That afternoon, Tony and I decided to go over to his parents’ house to go swimming as a distraction.  I donned my swim suit and we headed over.  As I got out of the car and walked into their house, I noticed my suit felt a little wet.  Not soaked, but definitely wet on the outside.  I thought to myself – I know I didn’t pee!  I gave Tony a funny look and told him what I felt, but he just thought I had put my suit on and it was still wet from the laundry (ha, like I wouldn’t have noticed that…).  So I went to the bathroom and when I stood up there was another gush, this time more noticeable.  I couldn’t really believe it was my water breaking!  I had just been telling some friends the night before that I wished my water would break so I would know for sure it was “go” time, since I hadn’t had any real contractions yet, only months of Braxton Hicks, and was afraid I wouldn’t know when they were real.  But since it’s a small percentage whose water breaks before labor really starts, I didn’t think it would happen.  So I was totally shocked when it did.  I went outside to tell Tony that this was the real deal.  He got all excited, as did his parents, and we grabbed some beach towels to head back to our house to change out of our suits and grab our stuff for the hospital.  I still think it was funny that I had a bathing suit on when it happened.  Extra absorbent.

We quickly got everything together at the house and prepared to go.  I still was afraid we would get there and they would say it wasn’t my water, but that was a crazy thought because there was no way it could have been anything else.  I was also anticipating contractions to start, but all I felt was a dull backache.  It was a great feeling walking into the hospital feeling like I was consistently peeing my pants.  I was nervous and excited and couldn’t really believe it was actually happening.  I had been doing all of the old wives’ tricks to get her to come to avoid being induced, but even still, I couldn’t believe I was really going to have a baby!  The nurses quickly confirmed it was my water and I got set up quickly in the delivery room.  By this point, I had called my mom to tell her to get on the road (they live 4 hours away).  My poor dad was on a business trip in Oklahoma and was so sad he wouldn’t be making it there in time.

At my prior doctor’s appointment, I had been barely 2 cm dilated with little softening, and when they checked me again at 4:45 pm at the hospital, nothing had changed.  My blood pressure was pretty high the first few times they took it, but seriously, I knew I was about to have a baby and it’s no wonder!  I knew it had to be nerves because my heart was racing.  The nurse talked to me about starting Pitocin right away, but I asked if there was any way we could delay that.  She agreed to ask the doctor, who allowed me to have my blood drawn to check for pre-eclampsia signs and wait on the results before starting Pitocin and see what I could do on my own.  By this point (about 6:30 pm),  contractions had started, but they were mild, like cramps.  My back was hurting but it wasn’t unbearable.  I got hooked up to an IV to start fluids, so I was basically hanging out in the bed, forcing Tony to help my drag my IV pole into the bathroom every 15 minutes.  I was getting hungry, so I was trying to drink lots of water and juice before I was no longer allowed to do so.

At 7:45, the nurse (who was so nice and helpful, for the record) came back and said my blood test had turned out fine, and my blood pressure was going down as I relaxed some.  Throughout the whole process, Harper’s heartbeat remained strong and we never had to worry that she was stressed.  The nurse said I could wait until 9 pm to be checked again and we would start Pitocin then if I still hadn’t made any progress.  At about 8:45, I told Tony to let the record show that my contractions had started to get real.  I found it was easiest to close my eyes, breathe, and press my hands to my face to get through them.  I’m sure I looked adorable.  

At 9, the nurse came back to check me, and I was still 2 cm, so we agreed to start Pitocin to get things moving.  I was not looking forward to those contractions, based on what I had heard.  The nurse told me to give her about a 45 minutes heads up before I wanted the epidural, so she could ensure I got all of the fluids I needed first and had time to get the anesthesiologist.  About 15 minutes into the Pitocin, the contractions got really bad.  Unfortunately, Tony’s parents came by to check on us at this point, and I know I was very poor company.  They soon left and Tony and I were hanging out with the lights low, trying to get some rest.  Despite being pretty uncomfortable, it was relatively peaceful in the room, as he played music and we talked about the baby that we would soon meet.

I didn’t want to get the epidural too early and slow progress, but finally at about 10 pm I decided I should give the nurse her heads up.  I wasn’t to the breaking point yet, but was afraid I would be if I waited to let her know.  So at 10:30, they were ready to do the epidural.  It’s sad to say that I only made it about 2 hours into real contractions, but I don’t have much of a pain tolerance and I don’t think the Pitocin made it any easier.  Also, one of the most uncomfortable parts by this point was my hunger.  I hadn’t eaten since lunch at noon.  Tony had offered to get us food on the way to the hospital, but I was just too nervous to think about eating.  I wish I had!!

The epidural wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be.  The numbing pricks were more painful than the actual catheter insertion, but that still felt super weird.  It actually took more so to my left side, so he had to reposition it to get it to flow more evenly.  After a few minutes, I felt better already.  Soon I wasn’t feeling the contractions that were registering on the monitor at all.  Luckily though, I had full control of my leg movement the whole time, and although they were heavy and tingly, I could still move them around. While I didn’t feel my lower half at all, my stomach was not affected by the epidural, so it continued to growl angrily.  After I got the epidural, they checked me again, and I was barely 3 cm.  All those stinking contractions had done very little.  I mentally prepared myself for a very long night and the prospect that I might not actually progress.

My mom got there at 11 pm and I was so happy to see her!  Something about having your mom there makes it that much easier to face something big and kinda scary.  She had jumped in the car shortly after my phone call and was so glad she made it before the birth.  Since it was late, Tony and my mom took up residence on the couch in the room and we all attempted to sleep, thinking it would be well into the next day before the baby was born.  I, of course, was still too agitated and excited and anxious to sleep, so I laid there listening to them both snore.  It was pretty relaxing, actually, to have the lights low and the hum of my baby’s heartbeat keeping me company through the night.  I had those few hours to myself to think about what was soon to happen and the baby who was preparing to make her debut. 

Around 2 am, I started feeling a lot of pain down in my right hip.  I had been feeling lots of pressure there for weeks, as I assume Harper was nestled down in my hip bone during her last month.  However, this pain was breaking through the epidural, and I was afraid it was really pressure to push and I just couldn’t tell because I was numb.  I tried to wait it out, pushing my little “more meds” button on the epidural twice within the hour, but finally I couldn’t take it.  It felt like the real contractions all over again.  I finally called the nurse, who checked me, surprised to find I was over 9 cm already!  None of us thought it would progress that quickly.  I guess the Pitocin was doing its job. 

This is my 9 cm excited face! (even puffier....)

At this point, they began setting everything up for the birth – lots of covered tables and instruments and fun stuff like that.  Tony and my mom got up, and Tony called his parents to let them know.  We decided I would start pushing at 4 am.

The nurse told me it could be a long time pushing, and she was definitely right.  She set a goal of 5:21 to have the baby out.  After a few practice pushes, none of which I could feel at all and felt like I was doing all wrong, we got down to business.  There are two big things that stood out during this part of labor.  The first was that I was pleasantly surprised by how calm this whole process was.  I know this is not the case for everyone, and I count myself extremely lucky that I had a relatively easy delivery.  But it was just Tony, the nurse and I in the room, with the lights turned low, early in the morning hours.  It was quiet and serene, even with the pain.  Time slipped by quickly but there was never a rush - just the drum of her heartbeat as we worked through each contraction.  

Secondly, I didn’t even consider how hard it would be to push.  I knew I would be getting the epidural, so I thought that pushing would just be painless – if anything, a little tricky because I wouldn’t be able to feel the urge to push.  However, that was wrong.  If I had known what it would be like, I would have practiced holding my breath throughout my pregnancy.  That was the worst part – trying to hold my breath and push for ten seconds at a time.  I know I was tired, but it quickly became difficult to hold and push through the entire contraction.  The nurse had me push for ten seconds, about 4 times total through each contraction.  As they were coming about 2 minutes apart at this point, it was pretty exhausting.  One of the worst parts too was my stomach.  I joked about how pathetic it was that the worst part of labor so far was the hunger.  The nurse said Harper was using my ribs as a springboard to try to push herself out, and unfortunately, my angry, hungry stomach was getting kicked too.  I had Tony give me ice chips between each contraction to try to trick my stomach into thinking I was eating.  I didn’t work –but it did help psychologically, just a little.  And yes, I know I'm a baby.  I had an epidural and still thought it hurt.  

Tony was amazing during the pushing.  He held my arm and I could hear him hold his breath as I did with each push.  He fed me ice and knew when to give my hand an extra squeeze.  The nurse was also amazing – she seemed to know when to encourage me and when to stay quiet. We talked between contractions for a while until it became too painful to do so.  Despite how tiring it all was, I was so glad how calm it seemed to be. 

From about 4:30 am on (30 mins in), the nurse said Harper's head was only a few inches from crowning.  Unfortunately, she was having trouble slipping under my pelvis bone since she was so big.  She stayed in that same area for over an hour.  The nurse told us she could see her head push out a bit with each contraction and wiggle back and forth as she tried to help herself out.  To my complete surprise, Tony took up the nurse’s offer to look.  He was fascinated and I’m so glad he chose to do so.  The nurse’s goal of 5:21 rolled around and I joked that I was sorry I didn’t make it.  She said it was unrealistic anyway.  At about 5:30 the doctor came in as Harper was finally getting closer to crowning.  However, after a few pushes, he said that he thought a vacuum assistance would be needed to get her out, since she had been stuck for a while under my pelvis and didn’t seem to be making enough progress.  I was a bit scared to hear that and was unsure, and asked him what the risks were.  I knew it was either try this or keep her stuck and risk something worse, so I agreed.  Things seemed to really take off at this point.  Many more people came into the room to get everything ready, but by this point, I was in a lot of pain since she was stuck and I didn’t really look around too much. 

On the next contraction, the doctor had me change positions a bit and I had renewed vigor to push as hard as I possibly could.  I figured it would take them a while to set everything up for the vacuum and I was determined to get her out myself.  The change in positions helped and Tony was great at encouraging me and told me she was crowning.  The next contraction and her head was all of the way out.  I was so excited that I was finally doing it, and a few more pushes later, she was born.  I was totally convinced that I had managed to get her out before the vacuum was used, but Tony told me later that, no, it was used and that’s what made her actually come out!  I thought I was just that good…oh well.

Harper Kate was born at 5:50 am, weighing 9 pounds 3 ounces, 19 inches long.  She came out with a full head of hair and a round little face and leg rolls.  She looks like her daddy in so many ways.  Her eyes are a steely gray blue, but I’m sure they will turn dark brown soon enough. 

My immediate sensation when she was born was the extreme relief of pressure.  I remember thinking that 10 months of heaviness was finally relieved, and it was so nice to be free of the pressure from the time she had spent stuck.  The doctor immediately placed her on my belly and I was just in shock that this was my baby.  I grabbed on to her and I think she was crying, but I was just so overwhelmed by the end of the pushing and the people in the room that I really didn’t even really see her clearly – it was such a blur.  She was soon taken to the bassinet by the bed to be cleaned off and looked over (since we had to use the vacuum she had to get examined thoroughly).  The pediatrician spent about 30 minutes with her.  I began shaking pretty badly from the adrenaline and the medicine and was just trying to see how my baby was doing.  I remember I kept asking the nurse if she was doing ok, and was told many times that she was great.  I just wanted to be sure and felt a little helpless in the bed.  Luckily, Tony was there so I knew it was ok.  

They spent a while tapping her back and chest, as she had a fair amount of fluid in her chest.   After things had calmed down a bit I just sat there staring at my girl, tears running down my cheeks, so happy she was finally here.  It was like everything else in the room faded and it was just her.

Red and scrunchy

She was finally done with her exam a bit later, but Tony had to hold her, as I was feeling very nauseous and shaking so badly I was afraid I would drop her.  I felt so terrible not overcoming my own pain to hold her, but I just couldn’t do it.  Tony got his time in instead.  I was able to try to breastfeed her and she literally latched on first try, perfect form, and has been doing so ever since.  I am so proud of her and so relieved that breastfeeding has been relatively “easy” on her end (as far as it can be…).  Our parents soon got to come in and hold their grandbaby.  It was such a happy morning.  While it took me a while to finally feel well enough to hold her, when I did, I just couldn't believe that I was holding our baby in my arms.  Forty weeks of dreaming about what she would look like, wondering how she would act - and here she was.  Our perfect baby girl.  Soft brown hair that curled a little in the front.  A double chin that melted into a round little face.  A tiny little crooked foot.  A button nose and pouty little mouth.  My husband a little overwhelmed with adoration across his face.  Our family.

Tony's parents

Double chins!!

My parents
She dealt with jaundice for a few days, but looked cool doing it


  1. Oh Claire! What a beautiful story! Thank you for posting it!! I teared up... of course... because I'm such a ninny. And I completely agree with so many of the things you said... sitting quietly in the dark overnight... sort of quietly wondering at how much my life was going to change so quickly, how strange it was that the room felt so calm when it was time to push... you said it all perfectly. You'll be glad you wrote all this down because I'm surprised how fuzzy these memories have gotten in the 8 short weeks that Katherine has been here!
    Harper Kate is GORGEOUS! I'm SO SO glad that breastfeeding is going well! You guys made a beautiful baby! I'm so happy for you! Congratulations!!!! :):)

  2. Oh! And also (Because I still have more to say even after my novel-long previous comment) don't be hard on yourself for being in pain or needing interventions while giving birth to a NINE POUND baby. You are NOT a wimp! You are all that is woman!!!

  3. Congratulations!!! Harper is beautiful!!! Welcome to the Mommy world :)

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your story- I love reading birth stories! I'm glad everything was fairly uneventful with yours and nice work on the 9+ lb baby!!! I am impressed. She's beautiful :)

  5. Loved reading this, especially since I was going through the same thing on that same day :) Thank God for the epidural - I only made it 45 minutes before I caved and asked for it. I was also surprised at how calm the process was for me in general, except for the last five minutes when it felt like all hell broke loose and I almost gave up! We're so happy for y'all and can't wait for our babies to meet each other.

  6. Of course. I'm crying. Just so so happy for your family. And she is so beautiful and perfect! Congrats, momma!

  7. I didn't know how much I loved reading birth stories until I read this one. I think of you as one of my oldest blog friends so it was so nice to hear how you delivered your Harper. Aren't you completely speechless as to the miracle that you brought into this world. You accomplished this, mama! I'm so proud of you!


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