Friday, January 31, 2014

Julia's Birth Story

I finally finished writing Julia's birth story, but be forewarned, it's a long one (What can I say? I'm a detail person!). Julia was "due" Saturday, January 11. Even though that day came and went with no signs of labor, I wasn't too terribly antsy about still being pregnant. Everyone at church on Sunday commented about what she was going to come and I'd tell them that I hoped the full moon later that week would bring her. To help pass the time, I sewed a valance for the nursery window using the leftover fabric from the baby quilt my mom is making and worked on cleaning out more of my crafting supplies and the desk from the nursery.

On Wednesday the 15th, I started having very mild cramping throughout the day and was hopeful that it meant real labor was imminent. Early Thursday morning, around 4:30, Natalie climbed into bed with us, once again, but I couldn't stay asleep because more painful contractions kept coming every so often. Finally, around 6:30, I got up because I couldn't sleep and began timing the contractions on Alex's phone using a contraction timer app (gotta love technology!). Because the pain wasn't unbearable yet, I figured it was as good a time as any to finally sew a nursing camisole, so I did that while Natalie ate her breakfast. What else do you do during early labor?! Unlike my labor with Natalie, which was just back labor, I was feeling the contractions in the front and the back. It was really hard for me to find a semi-comfortable position during the pain. They kept coming 2-4 minutes apart, but were only lasting 30-45 seconds (or so I thought). I called my doula, M, and let her know what was going on and cancelled my doctor's appointment that was supposed to have been later that morning. Then I went to the bathroom and saw more evidence that things were progressing. My mom came and picked Natalie up around 10:30. Alex and I tidied the house and then I got in the tub to try to help with the pain. After a while in the tub, I felt like things had slowed down, and I was getting bored, so I got out. Many women find water to be helpful for pain management during labor, but it just seems to slow my labors more than anything.

I had made arrangements for my mother-in-law to pick M up and bring her to our house and she arrived around 1:30 p.m. As she watched me having contractions, she felt my stomach and said the contractions were lasting longer than the 30-45 seconds that I thought they were. I had only been timing the painful part, but my stomach was staying hard longer, making them around a minute long. That was encouraging! Now I felt like we were really getting somewhere. By 2:00, I was having back-to-back contractions that were increasingly painful, so M checked me and I was about 3.5 cm dilated and we decided to head to the hospital. My goal was to labor at home longer than I did with Natalie and avoid getting to the hospital so early that they send me home. No woman wants to make a 45-minute car ride to the hospital more than once! We grabbed a plastic tablecloth and some towels, all our bags, and the infant car seat and headed out. Thankfully, I didn't have as many contractions in the car, so the ride wasn't as awful as I thought it might be. We did have to make a pit-stop at a Dollar General on the way because I kept having to empty my bladder. I just didn't want to have any contractions in front of random strangers because, well, that would be awkward!

When we arrived at the hospital, the L&D wing did not have a clean room for me, so I went to triage for monitoring while they prepared a room. Apparently the full moon had sent a lot of women into labor over the past couple of days and the hospital had been really busy! The monitoring confirmed that I was having strong, regular contractions, but the baby's heart rate was on the fast side, indicating that I needed to breathe more during contractions to ensure she was getting enough oxygen. I was dilated to 4 cm.  We got to a room and I decided to get in the tub again to help manage the pain. When that was no longer helping, I decided to give the shower a try. The hospital has awesome two-person showers with 3 shower heads on each side so that water hits you all over and feels really good when you're in labor. Unfortunately, the water temperature wasn't very warm for very long, and I ended up getting out to warm up and try something else.

M applied counter pressure to my hips while I leaned on Alex during contractions. My dad came by after he got off work around 6 pm and brought me Greek yogurt since I hadn't packed enough food to eat during labor and was hungry and needing energy. Several hours had passed since we'd arrived at the hospital and I was curious to know how much progress I had made, so we asked the nurse to check me. I was at 4.5 cm, just half a centimeter more than I had been 3 hours earlier. I was devastated. I began to cry and laid down on the bed and let it all out. My dad tried to encourage me and then decided to head home and I talked things over with M. We concluded that I had been tensing up my lower body during contractions instead of staying relaxed, which was keeping the contractions from being able to do their job, so I needed to try to stay loose in my hips and legs. After our chat, I got up to go to the bathroom for what seemed like the millionth time and I felt a pop and announced that I thought my water had broken. Sure enough, it had! It was 7:12 pm. This was a new experience for me since I had asked my doctor to break my water with Natalie and made it to 9 cm before he broke it. After my water broke, the nurse had to check me to make sure the baby's umbilical cord was not in the way and that the fluid was clear. I was dilated to 5 cm.

I sat on a birthing ball with M behind me providing that blessed counter pressure for the back labor and Alex in front for me to hold on to. I let my legs rest out in front of me with just my heels on the floor in an effort to keep my lower body relaxed. Sometimes, reclining at the waist and leaning into Alex that way felt better during contractions. It hurt so very badly! Having contractions in my belly was a new experience that I never had with Natalie, and there was nothing that helped take the edge off the pain. Strangely, pain medication was not tempting this time around like it had been with Natalie's labor. Maybe it was because I knew what my options were this time and I didn't want to be groggy from Stadol and didn't want a needle in my spine.

I went back to the bathroom, but felt the urge to push during the next contraction. M said that could be a good sign, indicating that I was "complete", but we would need the nurse to check me to make sure. She and the nurse, Misty, told me not to push, just in case I wasn't fully dilated yet because I could tear my cervix. I was dilated to 8 cm, I think. So, I had made quite a bit of progress since my water had broken and I'd starting staying relaxing my lower body. My doctor came by around 7:45 pm to check on me and said he was going to go eat "lunch", but would be back soon if I needed him. Not too long after he left, I was sitting on the edge of the bed with Alex behind me to lean back on and M sitting in front of me holding my legs, which suddenly felt like lead, too heavy for me to move myself. During one contraction, I'd ask her to keep my legs straight and the next, I'd beg for her to bend them and bring them up like they do when you're pushing. The next thing I know, during a contraction, my uterus takes over and starts pushing for me. I told M that I needed to push, but my body was doing it for me, that I couldn't control it. She got excited and got the nurse, who checked me and confirmed that I was complete! I was ready to push and it was only 8:30 p.m., a little over an hour since my dad had left and my water had broken!

It was all so surreal since I was more alert this time than I was with Natalie. With her labor, I was so exhausted from being awake for 32 hours by the time I started pushing that I was really zoned out. This time, I was tired for sure, but I wasn't falling asleep between contractions, and was more in tune with what was going on. I started out pushing while sitting upright (how I delivered Natalie), but after a while, I felt like I needed to change positions. Someone suggested I get on my hands and knees, so the nurses and M helped move me, but a contraction started halfway through, so I ended up pushing while lying on my side. After the contraction passed, they finished moving me to my hands and knees. I wrapped my arms around Alex's neck to help hold myself up. The doctor had given me two shots of numbing medicine just before I started pushing, and my legs and feet felt tingly like they were asleep. Pushing her out was soooo hard. It hurt like crazy despite the numbing medicine. I screamed for them to just get her out and finally, after 50 minutes of pushing, she was born.  It was 9:25 p.m.

I couldn't see her since I was on my knees still, but they told me she was blue and not breathing because her shoulders had gotten stuck for 2 minutes and that had essentially squished her lungs on the way out. They took her to the warming table and pumped air into her lungs. I kept thinking, "Breathe, Julia! Breathe!" Finally, she cried! What a wonderful noise! Her forehead down to her cheekbones was bruised and her eyes had broken blood vessels from the tight squeeze, but she was perfectly beautiful. After she started pinking up, the nurses laid her on my chest and covered her with a warm blanket to help bring her temperature up. Alex and I discussed what to name her, and I told him that I had been thinking of her as Julia as soon as she was on the warming table. The longer we held her and got to know her, the more we agreed that she was our Julia Kate.

After an hour or so of skin-to-skin time and bonding, the nurses took Julia to be weighed and measured. She weighed 8.0 lbs and was 19.25 inches long. The nurse told me that I wasn't allowed to ever have a bigger baby because of how Julia's shoulders got stuck in my small pelvis and how Natalie needed to be delivered using suction. I had semi-jokingly told Alex during labor that IF we decided to have more kids, we were adopting. Labor was so painful! I couldn't imagine going through it again, even if I chose to get an epidural next time. And after going through natural childbirth twice, I can't really imagine not going natural again because I still feel like it's the best choice for me and our babies. (Now that two weeks have gone by, I think I could do it all again if we do decide to have another baby someday, but I'm in NO hurry!) I had discussed the possibility of going home as soon as possible with my doctor, and he agreed that as long as I was feeling up to it, he would discharge us when we were ready. We arrived home when Julia was exactly 24 hours old. My parents and brother brought Natalie back home to meet us, and Natalie was bouncing off the walls, despite the fact that it was an hour past her bedtime. She held Julia for a second and then had had enough of that. It became clear that she was more than ready for bed, but thankfully, after a good night's sleep, she was happy to see her baby sister again in the morning.

We're adjusting about as well as can be expected. Julia started out as a great sleeper, but has been waking up more frequently during her second week of life. Natalie still climbs in bed with us in the middle of the night every night, which doesn't help with our sleep deprivation. Alex was on vacation last week and worked from home this week. Natalie still seems to be enjoying her sister with very few issues with sibling rivalry. I'm hopeful that she'll learn to be gentle in time. I'm so thankful for friends bringing us meals and not having to worry about planning and prepping dinner. Julia is nursing like a champ and gained a whopping 14 ounces in her first week! One of my close friends took newborn pictures for us, so I can't wait to share those when they're ready! My hormones haven't been nearly as crazy this time as they were with Natalie, so I can say that the transition from one kid to two has been much easier than becoming a parent for the first time, but it is definitely a challenge trying to juggle the kids, housework, sleep deprivation, and self-care. I ventured out of the house by myself with both girls yesterday and well, I am in NO hurry to do that again any time soon! Mercy! It is just exhausting to drag the kids, winter coats, the car seat, and the diaper bag in and out of the car. And add to that a baby who wants to eat every hour and a half to two hours so you end up feeding her in the dressing room at Walmart and you get a shopping trip that lasts much longer than you want it to! So there you have it! Congratulations if you managed to hang in there til the end!


  1. Loved reading this! I found my 2nd to be so much "easier" in the sense of after-birth hormones and such. There's a familiarity that comes with the territory and it gives you a little more room to breathe. Glad all is going well for your two sweet girls. The sibling rivalry thing will run its course and then they will be great friends. I can distinctly remember my first outing with two! Oh my goodness, I can probably tell you step by step how it went, it's forever engrained in my memory. ;) It's a LOT of working getting kids out, especially when they are younger. I saw this e-card the other day that said something to the effect of "I realized the other day that the trash goes out more than I do" hahaha, it's so true! Online shopping is my friend. :P

  2. Thanks for sharing your story! Kind of weird to think I'll be going through labor in 6 months...but reading this is an encouragement that in the end, it's all worth it :)

  3. I loved reading the birth story - you did amazing! Poor Julia, getting stuck though. I can't imagine, that must have been painful!