From time to time, I will share my client’s birth stories, with their permission and unedited (unless they request certain edits such as changing names). Here is the first, entirely unedited.
Birdie’s Birth Story, as told by mama Emilie – Friday, May 20, 2016
I woke up at 7:15 AM this morning to a tightening in my belly. It wasn’t painful in any way—just a sensation that I hadn’t felt before. After a second tightening, I wondered if these were contractions. But as they didn’t hurt, I decided they must be the mythic Braxton-Hicks ones. I had wondered before how I would be able to tell the difference between a false alarm and the real thing, but everything I’d read and had been told by friends was that when the real ones happen, you know it. Just to be safe, though, Josh and I decided to work from home for the morning until we knew more. After an hour, the tightening had subsided entirely, so we headed into Manhattan.
Once at work, the tightening continued, and I started tracking the hits on an app. Though they didn’t subside again, they also didn’t follow any sort of pattern in terms of duration, frequency, or intensity. Dr. Moritz had told me that real contractions might vary in length, but I would notice a pattern of increasing frequency and intensity—neither of which was happening. So I attended a meeting and then my “surprise” pizza party baby shower before heading to the doctor’s for my weekly appointment at 2:30 PM. On the walk from the subway to the doctor’s office, a tightening struck that was strong enough to cause me to stop walking for a moment and think that maybe I should call these things what they were—contractions.
When I was taken by the nurse at 3:00 PM, I told her what I’d been feeling, and she didn’t seem too concerned but asked if I wanted Dr. Moritz to examine me. I said yes, so after a regular appointment with fetal monitoring and whatnot, Dr. Moritz chatted with us and then seemed ready to let us go until next week. Josh mentioned again what I’d been feeling, and the doctor shrugged it off but got what he needed for the examination. After praising me for having “the pelvis of a goddess” (?) and saying that based on that I should be able to pull off my hope of delivering without drugs, Dr. Moritz suddenly had very wide eyes. “Uh, what were you planning on doing after this appointment?” I replied, “Just going back to work.” Dr. Moritz: “Yeah, you’re not going to be doing that. Did you see the look of surprise on my face? You’re five centimeters dilated. I’m not sure you’re human—only an alien could have made it this far along and just be sitting here chatting with me and not in any pain. You’re having this baby either today or tomorrow.”
Josh and I were stunned. Dr. Moritz suggested we walk around the neighborhood for 30 minutes or so and see how I was feeling, hopefully causing my water to break in the process. He said that if my water broke we might want to head over to the hospital, or we could come back to the office for him to check me again. Otherwise, we would want to head home until the contractions picked up steam. I was concerned about depending upon the contractions, as they had been so inconsistent thus far—how would I know when the time was right?
Josh and I went for the walk, and the pain was definitely apparent now, and I would often have to stop walking when a “big one” hit. We got back to the office around 4:30 PM, and Dr. Moritz examined me again. Though my water still hadn’t broken, he said I was between 7 and 8 centimeters dilated and that he was moving up the timeline—I was having the baby tonight. If we went to the hospital then, they’d force my water to break, so again Dr. Moritz suggested we walk so that it could happen naturally. But if we headed home to Astoria, we’d just have to turn around and come right back—but we could try to go home if we wanted. Dr. Moritz said that if we went home, as soon as I felt the urge to “take a big shit,” we needed to leave right away. I asked, “But given how quickly things are happening, would we have enough time for a 40 minute car ride from Astoria back here?” Dr. Moritz: “If you were a normal woman, yes. But with you, I’m not so sure.”
Josh and I decided we wouldn’t be going home, so we walked over to New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan and hung around the patio area outside for a while. Josh took a conference call for work and then suggested we hit up a Duane Reade for some toiletries, since our “go bag” was at home. We walked a block and I asked Josh how far away the store was; he said another four blocks. I said that I wasn’t going to make it that far, and I pointed out an independent drugstore across the street. We got a few necessities and then walked back outside. A big contraction hit, and I wrapped my arms around Josh and buried my head in his shoulder. Then, whoosh, my water broke at 6:00 PM.
We rushed back to the hospital and got directions to Labor & Delivery. When we got to the sixth floor, we got directions again. Finally, we thought we were in the right place. It was 6:10 PM. Josh: “We’re looking for Labor & Delivery?” The woman behind the desk just stared at us. Josh again: “Labor & Delivery?” The woman: “Yes.” Me: “I would like to deliver my baby, please.” She seemed surprised by this request and also bored by it—she started handing us forms to fill out. Josh was attempting to convey urgency, letting them know that my water just broke, but who cares when there are forms at hand! I was signing things with a signature that I’m sure wouldn’t have held up in a court of law—it looked nothing like my handwriting. Then the woman handed us a bizarre form about designating someone to take care of me. Josh: “What does that even mean?” The woman: “You know, someone who will help take care of you … or walk your dog.” Me: “That’s what my husband is for.” The woman: “Well, you could designate him if you want.” Me: “Why would I need to designate him? He’s my husband. His job is to take care of me.” The woman: “Well, you still need to fill out the form, either designating your husband or rejecting coverage.” I tried to comply, but when a contraction hit, I dropped to a squat, clutching the edge of the desk. Josh started filling out the form for me, but the woman informed him he had written in a box that he wasn’t allowed to write in, and she pulled out a clean form for him to start again. Josh: “Okay, then we decline. DECLINED.” The woman: “Well, she still needs to sign the form saying she rejects it.” FINE. One last illegible signature it was! The woman said she’d get us into Triage and that we should take a seat. I looked around; there were no seats. Me: “Where exactly?” The woman: “In the waiting room.”
We walked back to the waiting room, but after sitting for mere moments, me squirming in pain and clutching the arms of the chair, I turned to Josh: “You need to go make them understand that I am having this baby now. Explain to them how dilated I am. Make them understand.” Josh headed back through the doors—apparently “8 centimeters dilated an hour and a half ago” were the magic words. Now they were ready to skip Triage and take me right away.
First they sent us to a bathroom for me to change into a gown and socks. Josh was shoving my clothes in a bag, and when I took off my underpants I told him just to throw them away. He hesitated. He later told me it was because we had nothing with us, and he was worried about getting rid of my only underwear. I just wanted them gone, and when you’re dealing with a crazy person, it’s best just to indulge her, so Josh did. I was then worried about making a mess of the bathroom with the blood coming out of me all over the floor, and I started making an effort to clean it up. Josh was trying to get me to stop, but I was very focused on it, so he said he’d clean it up and started doing so (again, crazy person). They then knocked on the door to make sure everything was okay, and we stopped cleaning and followed them into a birthing room.
They had me get in bed and asked me about my birth intentions. I’d spoken to the head nurse the previous week, but of course that didn’t matter at all. I explained that I didn’t want any drugs, and I didn’t want an IV. They said I’d have to have an IV. I said that they could put the pic line in, but I didn’t want them hooking it up to anything unless medically necessary. They then hooked me up to the fetal monitor. My wish had been for intermittent fetal monitoring, but I knew enough that it wasn’t going to be long, so who cared? They reminded me that even though I was on a bed, I had the option of moving around the room if I wanted. I thought they were nuts; there was no way I was going to have time to walk around!
Midwife Anne then arrived to introduce herself and let me know that Dr. Jew was on his way, but as I was progressing so quickly, if he didn’t make it in time, she would deliver my baby for me. Anne then examined me and said I was nine-and-a-half centimeters dilated and we wouldn’t be waiting for Dr. Jew. She said that if I felt the urge to push I should. I said, “I feel the urge to shit, not push.” She said, “That’s the same thing. It’s time to start pushing.”
Anne reminded me how to breathe, and I said, “Yes, I know. I just can’t seem to remember how to do it right now.” She sweetly said, “That’s why we’re here to help remind you.” Anne explained to me how to push, and even though I understood exactly what she was saying, I couldn’t seem to get it quite right. I focused on some little box thing on the wall (maybe a thermostat?) and tried to breathe in through my nose for four counts and out through my mouth for six. Josh was by my side the whole time, but I couldn’t look at him because I was focused on the box thing. Josh told me afterwards that he loved how I was myself the whole time, recalling a moment when I glanced up at him and rolled my eyes at something. The television was also on, though it was muted, and I thought how strange that it was on at all. With each contraction, I would push and push with Anne’s guidance. She reminded me not to push with my face, which I recalled being a tip from Lisa at our birthing class—yet I kept pushing with my face!
I saw Anne and the nurse share a “look” at one point, which scared me. The nurse told me that when I pushed, the baby’s heart rate slowed, so they were going to give me oxygen to help. No problem—they placed an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth. Anne asked me if I wanted to feel the baby’s head—I think as incentive to get me to push correctly—but I said, “No, thank you.” Josh was brave enough to look, though, watching our daughter make her entry into the world.
Finally, I was able to push in the way I understood Anne was telling me to do, and at 7:15 PM, after 25 minutes of pushing, I felt our baby girl slide out of me—65 minutes after we arrived at the hospital, 75 minutes after my water broke, and exactly twelve hours after labor started that morning (though I only knew it was labor for the last four hours of it!).
I don’t remember if Birdie cried, but I felt so peaceful and content as they placed her on my chest for skin-to-skin time. She was beautiful and perfect, and I was so happy to see the person who I’d been carrying around for nine months. Everything felt just as it should be. I could feel the umbilical cord pulled from inside me up my body, which was an odd sensation. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, Josh told me that the cord was around the baby’s neck. He didn’t see Anne loop it off her, but she did of course. Anne commented that the cord was especially long, and I recalled asking about the length of umbilical cords in our birthing class. Why were they so long, if that length meant they often got caught around babies’ necks? But as I was lying there holding my baby, I thought maybe this was why. I’m tall, but most of my length is in my torso, so perhaps my body produces a longer umbilical cord to make this moment possible of having my baby with me.
They asked if I was okay receiving Pitocin to help with the bleeding. Now that Birdie was safely out of me, I was fine with it. After the cord stopped pulsing, Anne instructed Josh that it was time to cut it, which he did so with help from the nurse. Meanwhile Anne was focused on me delivering the placenta, which happened rather quickly, and though I felt it happen, it wasn’t painful. Anne showed me the placenta—it was bigger than I thought it would be, and I asked Anne if she would examine it to make sure all of it had come out. She said that it looked great and that it had come out cleanly.
Anne then examined me for tearing, and I needed just a few stitches. She put numbing gel (?) on me, but I still felt all three stitches go in. Somehow, the pain didn’t matter—perhaps because my amazing daughter was right there with me.
I asked about her Apgar, and she got a 9/9, which thrilled me. I then asked about her weight and length, and they said they’d have to take her away from me to tell me those things. The nurse carried her to an area that I could still see, and Josh went with Birdie, staying by her side. She was 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 20 inches long. After they cleaned her up a little bit, Josh got to snuggle with her, watching her watching him. After a little while longer, they said they had to take her to the nursery to clean her up for real and have the pediatrician look at her. I asked if Josh could go with her, please, and they said yes.
I missed Josh and Birdie while they were gone. There was a shift change, so a new nurse checked on me periodically and let me know when I should make my way to the bathroom to pee, which burned, but a urinary tract infection is much worse, so it wasn’t that bad. Twister was now on the muted TV, and I thought about how the first time I had jury duty, this was the movie that they had on in the waiting room. Why was it always Twister? The new nurse told me I should try to sleep. I wasn’t sleepy, though—just very, very happy. After some more time had passed—I don’t know how long—I was helped into a wheelchair and taken to a shared room. Wonderfully enough, I didn’t have to share the room that first night, so we had deluxe accommodations! Eventually, Birdie was wheeled back into the room in a plastic baby box atop a wooden cart and placed by the side of my bed. I was so happy to see her and Josh again.