The Story of Jacob’s Birth
Eric and I went to bed on Sunday, November 17. My back had been achy all day and I was having difficulty getting to sleep. But neither back aches nor insomnia were foreign to me at 9 mos. pregnant (or 2-8 mos. pregnant either for that matter). I remember getting up more than usual to walk around, reposition or go to the bathroom – perhaps every 30-60 minutes. I was just trying to ease the back pain. I didn’t really feel any “contractions” in my stomach and it didn’t occur to me that this might be early labor until about 5am when I finally noticed that the pack pains were coming at somewhat predictable intervals.
I woke up Eric at about 5:30 and tentatively suggested that maybe there was a slim possibility I was having contractions, but I really didn’t think so, but would he help me time them, so sorry to wake him, blah blah blah. It was difficult to time them at this stage because there wasn’t a clear start and stop to the pains, they just sort of eased in and out. I think we decided they were roughly 5 minutes apart (but sometimes more), and 30-40 seconds long (but sometimes more). Still we were both unsure if this was the real McCoy because I didn’t feel much in my stomach. At 6:30am we decided to call Maggie our doula (that’s a “labor assistant” that we privately hired to assist us) and get her opinion. She felt we were in early labor and we should just continue as we were: tracking the pains and keep in touch with her. We called my mom (4:30am California time!) and let her know so she could work on finding a flight out to Milwaukee. And then Eric and I just went about our business.
We had breakfast, we showered, read the paper, even took a walk around the neighborhood. Every 4 or 5 minutes or so I would lean over a counter or hold onto Eric, sway side to side and breathe deeply through a contraction. We talked to Maggie and my mom once or twice more. At 10am I decided to call my doctor – not really to let him know I was in labor mind you, just because I thought I ought to cancel my 1:15pm appointment with him that afternoon. Eric and I were so mellow about this we didn’t want to alert the doctor too early and have it be a false alarm or wind up in the hospital unnecessarily early. When the doctor heard I was having contractions 4-5 minutes apart for several hours, he told me to go straight to Labor & Delivery right then. Well, Eric and I were pretty surprised. We still weren’t entirely convinced this was “it” and thought the doctor might be overreacting a tad (you know, because Eric and I are so experienced at this childbirth thing…). So, we took our sweet time pulling ourselves together and getting to the hospital.
We ate a little, tidied up, packed up the car, made phone calls. In the midst of all this we also had someone blowing insulation into our attic (whose machinery of course broke down which “had never happened before”) and contractors and city inspectors doing the final inspection of the renovations we’d done to the kitchen and bathroom in the home (talk about down to the wire with renovations and nesting!). All were unimpressed with my contractions and not terribly motivated to get out of our house. I finally had to insist that I needed to go to the hospital and they would have to leave.
We got to the hospital at about 11:30. We were still unconvinced this was it, so we left our bags in the car. We thought we’d have plenty of time to retrieve them if they really did think I was in labor and check me in. After a little bit of a wait, a nurse brought me to the triage room at about noon. I changed into a gown and the nurse came back a few minutes later to triage me. Just as she was about to check how dilated and effaced I was, my water broke. Lovely. So this really was it (once your water breaks, they won’t let you leave the hospital and you must have the baby out within 24 hours). The nurse said I was 5cm dilated and 90% effaced. It was 12:15 pm.
Now the contractions started to seem a little more intense. I thought it was psychological – that I was affected by the hospital setting and a little freaked. I didn’t really think I was progressing terribly quickly and I was still bracing myself for the typically prolonged labor of a first time mother. I was wrong. Little Jacob was in a big hurry. Eric ran to the car to get our bags and barely made it back in time. My back was killing me and I couldn’t easily go into any sort of sitting, squatting or bent position. Upon reflection, it did feel like there was a head down there, but I remember thinking to myself “It can’t really be the head yet, it’s way too early. This must just be the sensation you get during labor.” So I never even mentioned to anyone that it felt like there was a head down there (I’ll know better next time!). Maggie was incredibly calm, offering words of support and ideas of how to position myself for more comfort. She had amazingly warm hands that she pressed into my lower back to help with the pain. Eric was my rock – there for almost every contraction. My most comfortable and common position to get through each contraction was to stand in front of Eric, arms around his neck like we were dancing, holding on and swaying for dear life. He didn’t freak out at all and always raced into position when I started into a contraction. He was awesome.
I think Dr. Berkoff stopped by at some point to say hello and that he’d see me later, but I’m not sure. I do know that nurse got the instruction from the doctor to have me on the monitors for 15 minutes out of every hour. So at about 1:25 the nurse came back to the room to hook me up to the monitors. When she saw how strong my contractions were, she could tell I was much further along than she anticipated and asked Maggie “How long has she been grunting like this?” (I didn’t know I’d been grunting by the way). She put all the wires down and went to do a quick physical exam. She popped up immediately and announced kind of panicky “the head is right there!”. She instructed me not to push – that I needed to try to wait until the doctor was there and they were prepared. She got on the intercom immediately and started barking orders “Get Dr. Berkoff here immediately. I need a table, such and such, so and so, etc.” The nurse on the other end started asking questions and the nurse barking orders cut her off and said there was no time to discuss those other questions. In seconds the room was pandemonium. People, equipment, lights, everything swirling about.
I was frantically trying not to push, doing the Lamaze style panting which supposedly makes it impossible to push, but I’m not sure it really works. It felt like nothing could stop this baby’s progression. The baby was so far down, it was difficult to even get myself from the standing position onto the bed for delivery. Once I got into the bed, I think it was about two or three contractions before the baby arrived. I was never instructed, nor did I ever consciously try to “push”. Before the last contraction, the doctor told me I was going to tear and asked if I’d prefer a minor episiotomy. The burning “ring of fire” motivated me to immediately choose the episiotomy. However, as the doctor reached to the table beside him to get the tools necessary for the episiotomy, the final contraction came, I tore a little and out came Jacob. I believe I apologized to the doctor and said I was sorry, but couldn’t help it as the baby came and I short-circuited the episiotomy plan. Jacob came out almost perfect, scoring a 9 on his Apgar exam – I think we both wound up looking and feeling pretty decent considering, since we were blessed with such a relatively easy labor and delivery. They placed Jacob on me immediately and we got to breastfeed for the first time then and there. We spent a couple of hours in the delivery room and then moved on to our recovery room before coming home two days later.