My (second) birth story

I gave birth four days ago (37w3d) at 10:48 a.m. I had begun working from home that week (37 weeks).  I normally work from home Monday and Friday anyway, so actually the extra days at home were Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought maybe I should go to work physically for our weekly meeting on Wednesday, but I was feeling very tired and I decided not to chance it.  I had been losing my mucus plug over the previous several days, and I wasn’t sure what it meant.

My doula texted me that she was going out of town Thursday through Sunday to see her mother in law, and was that okay with me?  I didn’t really know how to answer. Obviously with me being full term I wished she would stay, but it could be another three or four weeks and I could hardly hold her hostage that long.

I’d had my 36 week cervical check the previous Friday.  My normal doctor was on leave due to a death in the family.  The substitute doctor told me I was neither dilated nor effaced, just a bit soft, and that my cervix was very far back.  Basically, no sign of anything.  She gave me a GBS swab and I had a great deal of pain urinating the rest of the day.  I’m not sure how competent she was, and am glad I didn’t get her in labor.

I had an MFM appointment on Tuesday, which I had gone to with my mom.  I had a biophysical profile where I saw the baby on ultrasound and was scheduled for a growth scan the following week.  I told the doctor I was losing my plug, and she said “that’s OK.  You’re 37 weeks–you’re allowed to lose the plug.”  I asked her what it meant and she said “it might mean you are going into labor soon–or it might not.  We’ll make an appointment for next week and I’ll see you–maybe!”

On Wednesday, my doula texted me that she was back, which was a relief.  I tried very hard to finish all my work for work but I had a lot of phone meetings that took up much of the day, and I was feeling physically and mentally fatigued.   I took an hour walk on the treadmill and talked to my old PhD colleague.

That night, there was a lot more blood.  I woke my husband up at 11 p.m. warning him that something was up and I believed I was dilating quickly.  I was anxious and went to bed around 2 a.m.

Thursday I woke up around 5 a.m. with a stopped-up nose, needing to pee and feeling hungry. After trying my best to unblock my nose, I think I went downstairs and ate some cashews.  I began to feel really uncomfortable, like I was having bad menstrual cramps.  I woke my husband up and told him I was in pain. We called the doula around 6 a.m. or so.  She said she was on her way to work, but could leave work any time.  She also told me–inexplicably–that what I was having did not sound like real labor, and to call her back in four hours with an update.  That it sounded like Braxton-Hicks and false labor, that might progress into real labor or might stop.

My husband told her I was having contractions about 8 minutes apart, average length 35-40 seconds.  He was frustrated with me as he was trying to time the contractions and I was just in awful pain and didn’t care about the timing.  I sat down around 7:30 to send some final e-mails for work.  By this time I was in a ton of pain and starting to snap at my poor husband and swear a bit, which did not happen last time until I had been in labor for many, many hours.  The doula told me to hydrate a lot and eat lightly. I told her I was going to try a nap but it hurt too much and was moving fast.

My husband said he thought we should just call the doctor and I said go for it.  The nurse said to go to the hospital for a check.  I did not resist or disagree at all.  I guess I recognized by that point that I was in labor and that I was progressing quickly. At that point the doula told me she could not find backup at work, would be unable to come and check me, and suggested I call the doctor on call.  She would definitely come by tonight, she said.  I’d have a baby by tonight, I said to myself, and realized that I was going to go it alone without the doula. I tried taking a shower (I wanted to wash my hair and shave my legs so I wouldn’t be embarrassed when the entire world stuck their hands in me under bright light) but I also remembered from the birth class that water might make labor hurt less.  I found instead that the shower did not take the pain away and it was annoying to be wet.  I measured my blood glucose and got 105 instead of the 80’s it had been in lately.  This was unusual and was more confirmation for me that it was probably time.

My babysitter had arrived at 7:45 a.m.  She and the baby were downstairs.  I headed downstairs in a ton of pain, trying not to let my baby #1 see me groaning, and ate two eggs (stupid gestational diabetes).

Unlike with my last labor, I was feeling a bit of nausea. My husband stopped to drink his bowl of cereal with coffee in it (weird habit of his) and I snapped at him for going so slowly.  We went to pick my mom up but I was prepared for a five hours of pushing ordeal like last time, and I told her she might want to rest up and come later.  She said no, she was coming now.

Last time I was scared to go to the hospital in case it was fake labor.  This time I knew it was real but I dreaded being in pain and having to sit in the waiting room.  That is exactly what happened; the paperwork and all took forever.  There was a not-too-pregnant lady there on a stretcher who had just been in a car accident.  She was there with two EMTs who were looking at me sympathetically.  There was another African-American lady there with her mom.  Her mom said she’d been having contractions since the previous day, but she didn’t seem in any pain and seemed sort of dazed.

As soon as the admission paperwork was complete (I had preregistered but they make you do some paperwork anyway) I went to the farthest corner of the waiting room. Finally a lovely motherly tech  (probably the same one as last time) came with a wheelchair and took both me and the quiet lady to triage.  The other woman was able to walk, but I tried and had to stop.  I ended up in the wheelchair.  The nurse tried to tell me her name and I had a contraction and didn’t hear.  She told me to sit on the exam table and I told her it was hard to sit due to the pressure.  She said that was all the more reason I needed a check.  I was moaning a lot and the “rooms” were separated only by curtains–I’m sure I scared some women!  She did the cervical check and announced that I was 8 cm.  I said “Oh God.”  I knew I was dilated but I’d expected 6 like last time.  She asked me if I wanted an epidural and I asked how much worse it was going to get.  “You’re in the thick of it now,” she said.  I think there was a second nurse now.  She tried to introduce herself and I didn’t pay attention and the two nurses laughed knowingly and said “she’s like, whatever” or something.  It was weird and annoying to hear myself talked about in the third person and I also didn’t like that they thought it was normal and/or funny that I was in so much pain.

I knew labor was almost over at this point but I said I wanted drugs anyway, because I was afraid of how much longer things would last, how the pushing would feel, and I was afraid not to have any doula support or know Lamaze.  I felt very disappointed in myself for giving in.  I think at that point the nurse said they would try to give me an epidural but there might not be time.  She asked if I could walk and I said no, so they wheeled the whole bed to the delivery room.  My husband said that he helped–I guess they were really short on staff.  My husband tried calling my mom in the waiting room outside (only one person is allowed in triage) but her ringer was off.  He went to get her.

The nurses told me they had no staff to do a bed to bed transfer so I’d have to get up.  I got up and got on the L&D bed.  For whatever reason, they put up the side rails.  I laid there and moaned and screamed.  I remember saying “help me.”  I think then my mom and husband arrived.   The nurse asked me when my contractions had started and I said/yelped 5 a.m.  Someone radioed the hospital OB to be prepared, since s/he was on the premises and it was possible that my OB would not make it in time.  Talk about being scared–I had no doula, I was in labor weeks before I had expected to be, I had no anesthesia, and now my doctor might or might not show up.  They started an IV and mercifully used the blood from the needle stick to check my blood glucose, so that I never actually had a finger stick.  They told me my glucose was slightly elevated but nothing terrible.

To add yet another fun wrinkle, I was told that I was GBS positive, which had my OB’s office bothered to call and tell me, I would have gotten to the hospital even faster than I did.  Being GBS+ meant that ideally I was supposed to receive an antibiotic drip for four hours before delivery, but it was going to be more like four minutes.  I was told that baby would have some extra blood work afterwards to be sure he was not infected.  The nurses were all talking like I was about to deliver (which I was) and things were barreling ahead like a runaway truck–it scared me that there were no brakes on this thing, there would be no break, this was really it.

My husband asked them to give me ice chips, and they did.

I laid there screaming, writhing, and doing whatever, with an increasing feeling that I was going to pee myself–and then BOOM my water broke with an audible explosion.  The warm bath was a welcome relief.  I remember someone saying “rupture.”  My mom tells me the doctor had arrived at this point.  I just remember looking between my legs and seeing him and being relieved.  The nurse cleaned me off. I think I yelled “I need to push.” At that point I had another cervical check and I screamed bloody murder.  The nurse took her sweet time, ignored my screaming, and felt up my cervix very well before saying something about I was 10 cm with something-or-other lip and reporting that I was ready to push.

There was a lot of the nurses telling me how well I was doing, which seemed weird as I wasn’t doing much of anything; my body was doing its thing and I was just along for the scary ride.  I remember my hair being sweaty and lying on my left side in the fetal position, hanging onto the bed rails. They did something to the bed and said “grab your legs” and I said “I can’t” and the doctor said “there’s no can’t now.” The nurse told me “we have your legs–just push.”  She had one leg and my husband had the other.  My mom said she was rubbing my leg but I have no memory.  I screamed that I needed a break and couldn’t push yet but they told me no, I had to push on the next contraction.  The contraction began and I started moaning hysterically.  I was panic breathing and they told me to breathe in my nose and out my mouth, but my nose was sort of clogged up so I couldn’t breathe that well.  On the first push I couldn’t keep my legs open well and the nurse told me sternly that I was closing my pelvis off and needed to let my leg drop.  The nurse was pretty awful and told me “X, open your eyes!  Look at me.  Focus.  You can have this baby out in one (?) push but you need to focus.” I pushed.  It burned badly and I guess that was the ring of fire–I’d felt it last time too, despite my epidural.  They told me the head was delivered.  The doctor said something about the cord (turns out it was a nuchal cord) and told me to stop pushing, which I did.  My husband said the aggressive nurse yelled “CORD!”

The OB did something (my husband tells me he pulled on the cord a little and used the slack to unwind it) and then told me to give a little push.  I did.  The baby’s shoulders were out.  Third push and that was it.  The baby was wiped down and put skin to skin with me.  The feeling of a warm squealing baby on one’s chest–I’ll always remember it. Baby was out after the third push and put on my stomach.  He seemed smaller than my last as he was earlier, though really they were the same weight and almost the same height.

It seemed a long time before the OB cut the cord, asking my husband if it were OK with him (yes).  OB asked if he wanted to take a photo.  There was a little wait and then I think he tugged on the cord (yuck) and I delivered the placenta, which was a non-event.  The OB told me I had a borderline first/second degree tear and that we’d call it a second.  He warned me there was a needle coming (Lidocaine) and that it would hurt.  It did but wasn’t too bad.  After giving the Lidocaine some time to kick in he sewed for a long time, and I asked him how many stitches.  He said it was one long stitch, kind of like a shoelace; there was only one thread.  I think the needle went in about ten times though.  He did not wear a face shield.

There was blood everywhere and it had somehow gotten on my arm (I saw in the video that they accidentally brushed me with bloody clothes).  The doctor said he’d try to keep the needle in the numbed region, but at least once I felt the full stitch and it hurt.  The OB asked my husband “you aren’t videotaping this, are you?”  My husband said “no–taking a photo of the placenta” (gross, but as part of his job he dissects them on a daily basis.) That was that–the OB reassured my husband  that he had only ever known two GBS infected babies and that strangely, they were not born to infected moms.  We said we were glad he made it to the birth and he laughed and said there were probably some angry women in the office right now (which doesn’t make a great deal of sense as he was on call–though come to think of it, with my last birth the OB also called in the office at the last minute to say she would not make her 8:30 appointment).  He said he’d leave now and give us privacy to do whatever we wanted.

After lots of screaming during the delivery, I was quiet in the aftermath.   My mom said I looked great, but I could see on the video later that I was still frightened and upset.  The nurse did my charts, which she said she didn’t have time to do beforehand since I delivered so quickly.  I asked her if I had a precipitous labor and she said no–if I started at 5 a.m. and delivered at 10:48 that it wasn’t quite fast enough to be called precipitous.  I was disappointed and relieved.  They weighed and measured the baby.  I was given an unmemorable meal which as I remember included mashed butternut squash, milk, and some carrots.

They kept me in the delivery room for two hours before it was time to move.  The IVs were all still in me, including the antibiotics I think.  My husband asked if they were still necessary and if not if they could be turned off–I’m not sure whether they were.  I was given two bags of Pitocin which lasted for hours and hours until long after I had moved rooms.  I think it caused me to swell up a lot–when I came home from the hospital I had only lost the baby weight whereas I should also have lost the weight of the placenta, amniotic fluid, etc.  It definitely caused some very painful postpartum contractions.

The nurse did my charts, which she told me she didn’t have time to do beforehand since I delivered so quickly.  I had to sign a bunch of forms which made no sense after having delivered, like one agreeing to a blood transfusion if necessary and one stating that I would not videotape the delivery.

The nurse who had been a drill sergeant during my delivery was now all nice and smiley. They weighed and measured the baby.  I was given an unmemorable meal which as I remember included mashed butternut squash, milk, and some carrots.  I wasn’t sure I should eat normally after so many weeks on a gestational diabetes diet.  They kept me in the delivery room for two hours before it was time to move.  I sent my  mom to go eat lunch before the cafeteria closed. After my two hours were up I was able to get up and get in a wheelchair.  They wheeled me into Room 3B17 and I got up and got into bed.  The nurse helped me use the bathroom.  The next two days of postpartum were a blur of nurses, heel sticks for the baby, etc.  Baby’s glucose was pretty good despite my GD and we did not have to give him formula or send him to the NICU. We came home two days later.  I am proud to have survived an unmedicated birth.  I made it without our doula or any training in breathing.

The joy of having a son has indeed erased some of the pain of not having a father.  My dad would have said something jokingly about the circle of life.  I miss him, and life goes on.

PS–The doula met with me postpartum just to say hello.  She gave me a full refund, which was very kind of her.  I guess I didn’t really need her at the birth, and I am happy to have made a friend.


A short update

I had a nightmare a few nights ago where I was reliving the worst moments of my dad’s cancer treatment.  And in the middle of it I woke up and the quote I mentioned previously came into my head–“I might never forget, but I need not always remember.”  I reminded myself that the middle of the night on a workday was not the time I needed to relive all that awfulness.  And miraculously, I was able to go back to sleep and slept for the rest of the night. Physically, I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable.  My nose is really stopped up and I don’t know if it’s allergies (due to spring), a slight cold, or if this is the onset of the horrible pregnancy congestion I had last time during the third trimester, and I need to start nose steroids.  I’m really trying to delay starting them as long as possible.  I don’t like the side effects and I don’t think you are supposed to use them for a long time–and I have 20 more weeks to go. At age 36 my husband is still a first-year medical resident and it’s been nine months now.  I really, really am beginning to resent that he is never home and I am stuck doing my job (which pays our bills, as his entire salary is going into childcare) on top of the job of 1.8 parents, while I have pregnancy fatigue.  I have no free time to care for myself, write, or do any of the things I loved.  There is no way out of this mess in the foreseeable future.  It’s not like he can change jobs or something.  I really just want to relax and focus on me and my job for a bit.

38 weeks 6 days: The End is Near

I stopped writing for a while.  I had made a wonderful friend on my online colon cancer support forum who was diagnosed at the same time as my mom.   You can see her comment here from a few months ago.  She turned out to have a particularly aggressive case of Stage IV, and recently passed away.  I know she used to enjoy reading my blog, and it was hard to come back here.  I miss her.  I can’t believe she’s gone.  I was in an awful funk for days after she passed.  I never thought she wouldn’t be around to see baby photos.  It’s frightening and disturbing that she was diagnosed at the same time as my mom, and that she has already passed away.  That could have been my mom–she could have died before seeing her grandbaby.

As far as pregnancy, I am so tired, physically and emotionally.  My mom has her next blood work (check for cancer markers) only a few days after I’m scheduled to deliver.  My husband is interviewing for jobs all over the country.  I am absolutely terrified of labor and childbirth.  Not sure what to do.

One of the hardest things to deal with during pregnancy was actually nasal congestion.  Congestion on my left side has always been a problem for me that flares up if I sleep on my left side, or if I get a cold, or if I use a hair dryer (weird, I know).  I always have suspected there was some structural problem inside my nose, so that a slight amount of inflammation causes it to get blocked off.

The thing was, with the above issues, the congestion would always subside in a few days/weeks–and I could use Afrin or Sudafed without worrying about anyone but myself in the meantime.  One of the worst parts of pregnancy was that somewhere in the third trimester I became very congested and the congestion would not go away, as it was hormonal–and I didn’t feel laid back about using decongestants.  I wasn’t able to sleep for weeks.  Since I was still going to work every day, not being able to breathe or sleep was an incredible ordeal.   I tried sleeping in a recliner, steam, tons of saline nose washes, Neti pots, and nasal sprays, and when none of those helped and I couldn’t stand it any more I finally used Afrin or Sudafed.  My OB told me Sudafed was OK at a normal dose.  But I was scared:  I mean, it’s an oral medication so it’s systemic; how could it *not* affect the baby?  I’ve had side effects with Sudafed before, including what felt like my heart fluttering.  And also the side effects included anxiety and insomnia.  It’s one thing to use Sudafed for a day or two, but if I needed it every day for months–well, I was starting to get scared.

My husband encouraged me to go and see an ENT–something I’d have been really scared to do on my own.  We went to four doctors that day–ENT, ultrasound, OBGYN, and eye doctor for him; it was a new record for me.  I was worried that the ENT doctor would do endoscopy or something but she just looked up my nose with some small instrument and told me I had a deviated septum.  She told me that long-term I should get surgery when pregnancy was over, but in the meantime prescribed a steroidal nasal spray called Rhinocort Aqua (budesonide) which is Pregnancy Category B, rather than Category C like Sudafed, and does not have the awful side effects of Sudafed.  She told me it would take two weeks to be effective, but I think it worked the first night.  That was a huge relief.  Seriously I think if not for that spray I would have not made it to the end of pregnancy and possibly would have delivered early or something.

Although most women at my workplace have worked down to the beginning of contractions, I ended up taking leave at 38 weeks.  This means two fewer weeks to spend with the baby, but I was exhausted and I have a 22 mile commute.

Anyway, here I am at 38 weeks and 6 days (at midnight).  I think it is funny that as soon as I hit 37 weeks, which was previously called “full term,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists redefined full term to 39 weeks.  Talk about a moving target!  Anyway, in another day or two I will really be full term.  As a baby, I arrived at 39w0d, so let us see what my baby does.


I have gained 19 pounds.  I’ve started snoring.  I wake up in the middle of the night, every night, either because I have to pee or because I can’t breathe.

I feel sleepy all day, and then I can’t sleep at night.

There are weird snapping noises coming from my tummy.

How do women survive this?  I hear so little complaining.  I feel like I’m in a hamster ball or something; I’m trapped in this discomfort that has been going on for seven months and three weeks and won’t go away.

Entering the Third Trimester

(Well, some web sites said I entered it last week.)

Here is this a comment thread on how to discourage strangers from touching your tummy!  I’m reading it and I don’t get it–I am in my third trimester and not a single stranger (or friend!) has tried to touch my tummy.   Even my husband doesn’t rub my tummy much.  I think I’m just not showing much.  Last week yet another person was surprised that I was pregnant.  There are a few people at work who talk about my pregnancy and ask me how I’m doing, but there are the other 80-90% who do not mention it at all.

On an unrelated note, I have a huge, HUGE bruise from when they tried to take blood for my glucose tolerance test.  My cardiovascular surgeon colleague walked in, looked at me, and said “boy, you had a bad phlebotomist!”

I walked into my other colleague’s (he’s a radiologist) office today and he said “would you like to sit down?”

“No thanks,” I said.  “Actually sitting hurts.  I read somewhere that your ligaments all loosen or something and then your joints get out of whack, but you’d know more than me.”

“Well they do, but that’s only when you’re almost done!”

“I am almost done!”

“Wait a sec, I thought you weren’t due till November?”

“OK I am defining ‘almost’ optimistically. 🙂  I’m in my third trimester though.”

Dude, way to burst my glass-half-full bubble. 🙂  But seriously, 2/3 done, 1/3 to go.


Someone in my vanpool said to me this morning “you seem to be doing a lot better than my other pregnant friends!  They’re complaining that they can’t sleep, they’re constantly in pain, whatever.”

And I said “no, I’m feeling like that too.  I just haven’t been complaining.”

It’s true.  I try and act tough and like Superwoman at work, and if anyone asks me how I’m doing I say I’m good, and then I hole up in my office with the door shut and try to work.

But the truth is that I’m tired.  I feel sick.  I’ve been feeling sick for seven months now.  I went on a tour of the hospital’s maternity ward and watched some birth videos and they were gory and really scared me.  I don’t feel excited like all the other women on the maternity tour who were making big shows of rubbing their tummies.  I don’t feel excited like the new moms on Facebook who are posting streams of photos about their babies.

Maybe it’s that I’m 34 and not 24, and all my friends did this a decade ago and are so over it.  Maybe it’s that I didn’t have a baby shower, because my mom is not the type of person who is into that type of thing, and even if she were, her cancer is the priority now.  Maybe it’s that without siblings I feel like there is nobody to celebrate with.

I’m still at work every day, getting more and more work dumped on me.  I’m weary of the now bi-weekly doctor appointments and getting needles stuck in me–and about constant anxiety over whether the baby is healthy and will be born healthy, in addition to the even worse anxiety over my mom’s health.  Last weekend we went to the hospital for a maternity tour, where they handed out a brochure saying the leading cause of death for babies was car crashes and how pregnant moms should avoid driving in the last few months.  Great, but I live 22 miles from my job, and teleporters haven’t been developed yet.

I’m scared.  I’m going to have another human being to raise.  A girl, which I suspect is that much harder and where the burden will be a lot more on me than my husband.   I don’t really want to watch up close as someone else like me goes through the types of things I did growing up (hopefully either she is different or the world has changed).  I thought I’d be excited, but I’m just full of apprehension.  Having a baby is such an irreversible life change.  After so many years being single I feel awkward around my parents suddenly being a married mom-to-be.

It’s not that this isn’t something I wanted to do.  It’s that…I guess I just want to rewind my life by ten years, so it all happened differently.  So the baby didn’t happen when my mom got sick, or when I was restarting my career.  But I guess we all have regrets, and hopefully they inform the future.


Searching for Strollers

When I was a baby I had a Graco stroller with Snoopy on it.  It was a little fabric chair with wheels.  I loved my stroller, sat in it, and happily chewed on the rubber handles.  At some point the stroller got a big tear in the fabric and I got too old to use it, so that was that.

Yesterday I went to look at carseats and strollers.  The simple old Snoopy strollers are no more, having evolved in the intervening three decades to “baby travel systems” that look like small spaceships.  The least expensive I saw were around $300.

Among the strollers available for test drives at the baby store was an “Origami” stroller for $850 that folded itself and had daytime running lights.  (Dude…for $849 it’d better build me a thousand paper cranes or something.)  Other strollers north of $1000 had food trays, etc.  I forgot to ask whether they came with cruise control and air conditioning.

I want the best for my baby–heck I just spent $32k on a Subaru Outback loaded with every safety feature available because I wanted to keep my kid safe–but I never felt that my simple Snoopy stroller was missing anything because it didn’t tell me the outside temperature, you know?

I really wonder who buys this stuff.