I currently have a sleeping baby with a full tummy, so I am taking advantage of that fact to write his birth story before all the little details slip from my exhaustion-addled mind into the oblivion of new motherhood.
First of all, Griffin's birth was very different than Carter's two years ago. My labor with Carter was fairly textbook (that is, until the cord-wrapping, oxygen-needing, fetal-monitoring part), with a clear beginning and gradual build. With Griffin, it seemed as though I was in labor for weeks before he actually chose to grace us with his presence.
I had been having Braxton-Hicks for months prior to his birth, and they had gradually become stronger and stronger in the two or three weeks beforehand. The weekend before Griffin's birth (he's another Tuesday's child!) the contractions had begun to intensify, but there was no regular pattern, and they still weren't particularly uncomfortable.
On Friday night, I had a couple of trickles of fluid that I thought might have signaled a water leakage, so on Sunday we went to labor and delivery to check and have the baby monitored (yes, we are idiots and waited 36 hours to call - the midwife was not pleased with us). Fortunately, my water was intact and baby was fine. The attending physician offered to strip my membranes, but I decided to hold out until my Tuesday appointment and let my midwife do it then if they baby hadn't already come.
On Monday I went back to the hospital for more fetal monitoring - evidently this is standard when you've reached FORTY-ONE weeks of pregnancy. Again, all was well.
Finally, on Monday night I lost part of my mucus plug - hallelujah (if you're squeamish about such things as mucus plugs, you should not be reading this blog)! Mind you, this happened SIX DAYS prior to Carter's birth, so I had been on the lookout for this impending-labor sign for days, but to no avail. Fortunately, within an hour I began feeling contractions, and they were finally beginning to feel somewhat productive. This was around 5:30 or 6pm that evening, when I was on my way home from preschool with Carter.
Contractions continued all evening in a fairly regular pattern - 10-12 minutes apart, but only 30-45 seconds each. They intensified that night, and I labored all night long as contractions hit anywhere from 5-10 minutes apart. Much like Carter's labor, no sleep for me. They were much stronger while I was lying down, but still weren't particularly painful and each one lasted only 30-45 seconds, so I didn't think too much of it. Again, at this point I was pretty sure I was going to be pregnant forever.
In the morning, my sister-in-law came to take Carter to school and Max and I optimistically prepared ourselves for what would hopefully be baby's birthday. We went to Starbucks and took a walk around the neighborhood (total deja vu from another Tuesday almost exactly two years ago), during which contractions increased to four minutes apart and about a minute long, and I began to feel the first glimmer that this might actually be the real thing.
Unfortunately, when we arrived back home, things slowed down again - back to 8-10 minutes apart and of varying intensity. My mother had just flown in from Sonoma County that morning, and arrived at our place to find a cranky, exhausted pregnant lady who was feeling quite certain that it was all a cruel joke and Little Brother would never arrive. The three of us set off to the hospital for my weekly midwife visit. Just before we left I had more mucus plug-losing action (I will definitely spare you the details here, as it wasn't pretty, people). Fortunately, hope bolstered by the arrival of this additional bloody show (icky term, no?), we had the good sense to bring our hospital bag with us.
At my appointment (still having contractions, but only 8 minutes apart and not particularly painful), the midwife checked me (DRUMROLL) - 4-5 centimeters and 90% effaced! Get your ass to labor and delivery, stat! Well, what she actually said was not to go home, and that she would strip my membranes to see if that would help things along. The procedure was quick and painless, and she sent us on our merry way with instructions to take a walk around Westwood and then check in to L&D.
Almost immediately after the membrane-stripping, things began to pick up. Contractions began coming about five minutes apart and getting longer and more intense. After a brief jaunt around Westwood during which I freaked out droves of UCLA students by getting my contraction on at every available street corner, we checked into labor and delivery at about 4pm or so. When I was examined again upon admittance, I was 5-6 cm and 90% effaced. Progress!
Max and I wandered around the wing for an hour or so and he rubbed my back with each contraction. Exactly like my labor with Carter, I felt almost all the pain in my back, so I forced my husband to rub it as hard as humanly possible (and I still have the welts to prove it). At one point his hand gave out and he started using the wooden massage roller instead, jamming it into my lower back with each contraction like his life depended on it. Good man. My mother was once again in charge of the hot rice sock, although I was more ambulatory with this labor than I was with Carter's (when I basically just lay there on my side for a couple of hours, attached to oxygen and fetal monitors) so I didn't need the hot sock as badly. Still, good mom.
Eventually, the midwives (I got two for the price o' one - they were training a newbie, Katie, so she did most of it while Shadman oversaw everything) suggested that they break my water to speed things along. Normally I would be wary of such interventions, but at this point I'd been at it for almost 24 hours and by damn, I was tired. BREAK IT, BITCHES.
Instead of the massive gush that occurred when my water broke with Carter, there was only a tiny trickle - it was really the most anti-climatic water-breaking ever. However, almost immediately afterwards I was in transition. While I had labored on my side in the sleep position with Carter's birth, I found that position to be much more painful this time around, and I knew it wasn't the best position to speed things along and help the baby to descend. Instead, I felt like I needed to be on all fours on the bed, so that's what I did. Around this time I started feeling like I wanted to push, but was told that I was only 8cm so I couldn't. This was BY FAR the most difficult part of the birth, as it had been with Carter's as well. Basically, I think the best way to describe "breathing down" (is that what it's called?) is that it's like having a freight train running through your body, and you're just trying to contain it. I did a lot of groaning at this point, and yelled "I can't!!" a few times.
...and then it was over - midwife Katie checked me yet again (upon my insistence that I NEEDED TO PUSH, LADIES) and I was fully dilated and ready. I flipped onto my butt, pulled my knees up as high as I could get 'em, leaned forward, and within five or six good contractions (pushing two or three times with each) his head was out, followed quickly by the rest of him. Griffin was born at 7:14pm, about three hours after we checked into L&D, and just in time for dinner. They placed him immediately on my tummy, where he stayed for the next hour, latching on and nursing like he'd done it all his life.
Compared to Carter's birth, with the cord wrapped three times around his neck, his heartbeat decelerating with each contraction, me attached to an oxygen mask and a continuous fetal monitor, baby coming out blue and whisked off to be examined before I could even touch him, high white blood cell count leading to two days of antibiotics, etc etc etc - compared to that, Griffin's birth was a walk in the PARK. We went home the very next day and weren't even in the hospital for a full 24 hours. After all, we had a big brother at home to get back to.
...more to come.