Selah's birth story begins a few days before her actual birthday, on July 22nd. Throughout the pregnancy I had been having what felt like constant Braxton Hicks contractions starting around 34 weeks. Any time I was in the heat, on my feet for any extended period of time, or walking around my belly would tighten. However, nothing ever progressed and I felt like I could distinguish these fake contractions from the real deal. On Friday July 22nd I woke up around 6 a.m. with real contractions - the kind that start in your back and wrap around to the front. Right away I felt like this was different, so I timed them and they were 5-6 minutes apart for an hour. Long story short, we all thought I was in labor, and I think I was experiencing early labor. David stayed home from work, we had my sister and brother-in-law come get the girls for the day and I alerted my doctor and doula. As soon as things picked up we would go to the hospital. So we waited, took walks in the (HOT) weather, did lunges on the stairs, tried to nap, and tried to eat (even though I had no appetite). The contractions continued to be about 4 minutes apart for about 9 hours straight, but they never got any stronger. Then, around 3 p.m. they stopped. And I cried. We made the phone calls, got our kiddos back and I went to bed knowing that she wasn't going to come any time soon.
The next day was my birthday and it was Saturday. We went through our weekend as planned and Sunday marked 39 weeks gestation. On Monday David went back to work (with no baby to show for it!!!) and I felt so embarrassed that this was my THIRD kid and I still didn't know when I was in labor. I felt normal all day on Monday, and even cooked dinner! We ate our bacon and pancakes and as I cleaned up I started to feel super sleepy. I told David I needed to lay down just for a minute on the couch and meanwhile he took the girls outside to play. An hour later I was slowly waking up and he asked me if I was feeling okay. You see, it is very unlike me to fall asleep so quickly and stay asleep for so long, AND I had laid down on our new couch (which I had been avoiding for about a week convinced my water would break on it). I said I felt okay, but that I had had 2 stronger contractions in the past 5 minutes or so, but it was probably nothing. He told me to keep resting while he put the girls in the bath and started vacuuming - I was still nesting like crazy, and like any good husband he was totally humoring me. Minutes later I felt it; my water was breaking! On our new couch!! I literally rolled off of the couch (at 39 weeks pregnant, HAHA!), slapped his back while he was running the vacuum, and went straight for the toilet. Sure enough - ruptured membranes, and meconium. Shoot.
While sitting on the toilet with the girls playing in the bath tub beside me I called my doctor and left a message, then called my doula, Molly. She confirmed that since there was meconium in the amniotic fluid (since what I was leaking was a yellowish-greenish color, not clear) that baby had had a bowel movement. Sometimes this means the baby is in some kind of distress, and that means we needed to go to the hospital rather than laboring at home, just so we could monitor the baby intermittently to make sure everything was okay. She said she would meet us at the hospital in a couple hours, and the doctor called back saying a similar thing. We packed up our stuff, Jen and Thad (my sister and brother-in-law) came over to stay with the girls, and we left for the hospital.
The drive to the hospital was kind of surreal. I wasn't having contractions yet and it was about 9 p.m. so the sun was setting. I felt like I had time to let it set in, "I am going to have this baby. Tomorrow (in my head, I was thinking around 3 a.m.) I will meet my little girl." We parked the car and walked in together, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and checked into triage. As usual triage was completely awful. Has anyone out there had a decent triage experience? They asked me all the questions that I already answered during my pre-registration, checked my dilation (3 cm), and had to confirm the fluid was in fact amniotic fluid. This led to the nurse asking me to cough WHILE she was checking me (so that she could get a sample of the fluid), which, if this means anything to you, you know is the most laughable request you have ever heard. She confirmed it was amniotic fluid, and also confirmed there was a little bit of meconium. Really, the nurse was very kind and funny, and she let Molly come back into the room once she got there which is usually against the rules. Dr. V checked in and said she would be taking a nap until I felt like I needed her, and she gave the nurse permission to monitor the baby 10 minutes every hour as opposed to the "standard" 20 minutes an hour with meconium. Before I was officially admitted and sent back to the labor room the nurse had to take my blood and put in a hep-lock. Unfortunately my notoriously difficult veins led to me being stuck with a needle 5 times, 2 of my veins being "blown", and awful bruises on each arm before any success. Finally, around 11:30 I was in my room, ready to have this baby!
The night was LONG. Definitely the longest night of my life thus far. Contractions started slowly - about 5-7 minutes apart, but not very intense. Molly "lit" a fake candle and spread a little essential oil around the room with a tissue. We chatted in between contractions which was nice, but I kept feeling this dread creep up inside of me as I thought about what was ahead. Could I do it?
Every hour at the 45 minute mark my nurse, Becky, returned to monitor the baby. At first she insisted I needed to be on my back on the bed, but as the contractions got more uncomfortable we began to monitor with me sitting on the ball and holding the monitor in place. In some ways the monitoring was annoying, and I noticed that each time my contractions would spread further apart after the interruption of the nurse coming in and the distraction of the monitor. At the same time, it was wonderful to hear Selah's heartbeat and know that she was doing great and it kind of provided a rhythm to the night. After the nurse left I would choose a position to labor in, make it through about 10 contractions, and then she would be back and we would switch things up.
It felt like things were slow forever. I finally hit the point where I needed to go to "labor land" (as Molly called it) during a contraction, but in between I felt totally normal. I was hungry, I wanted to go to sleep, I wanted to be able to skip over the hard part that was coming. But then another contraction would hit and I would melt away from reality and into that place that is so natural and yet so far from your normal self.
The contractions started coming faster, and around 5:30 a.m. I hit transition. I remember the moment so clearly - I had a contraction while facing backwards on the bed and just felt her head move down into my pelvis.
I silently let out a few tears when it was over knowing it was time. "This is the really hard part," I thought. "Once this is over I just have to push a couple times and my baby will be here."
I felt like in some ways I handled transition much better this time around. During the contractions I remained calm and breathed deep. I found that place inside myself where I could focus only on that one moment; on getting over that one mountain.
But once "labor land" began to fade I struggled. In between the contractions I got all whiny. "I don't want to do this anymore. I am so tired. I just want her to be here." I was in the shower (my most favorite place) and things were getting more intense. She was lower, it was painful, and I was vocalizing a bit as each wave hit. "Do you feel like you are pushing?" Molly asked. We have a picture of David bending over and looking to make sure a baby's head wasn't out. I think we were all a little bit nervous that this baby was just going to come out! Nora did in only 2 pushes, after all. "I don't know," I answered Molly (red flag #1). "Do you want to ask Dr. V to check you?" "Sure", I agreed.
My doctor came into the bathroom and asked how I was feeling. Then she checked me, which was painful and felt like it took forever because my cervix is apparently difficult as well. To my surprise she said I was 10 centimeters and I could push if I felt ready. "Yes!!" I thought. "Of course I am ready - I want this baby OUT and I want to SLEEP!" I tried pushing while standing there in the shower. Then I said I felt like the warm water was numbing me too much and I couldn't feel what I was doing (red flag #2), so we moved out of the bathroom back onto the bed. When I came from the bathroom back into the main area there were 5 or 6 extra people there. Since meconium was present there was a team of people who had to be there when Selah was born just in case she had trouble breathing. I knew ahead of time that this would happen, but in that moment I suddenly felt kind of self-conscious and interrupted because all of the sudden there were all of these strange people there. I climbed onto the bed facing backwards again, and with the next 3-4 contractions pushed with everything I had.
Nothing. It felt awful. I was trying so hard! And was already so exhausted. At one point I said, "I can feel her, she is right there!" and it was true. Her head was outside of my cervix, but I just felt like with each push I couldn't hold on quite long enough to get her out. I was losing control, so Dr. V suggested I stand up and tried to squat. I tried to push again with the next 3-4 contractions and with the last 2 the yelling started. "I can't do this!!!" "Get your hand out of me!!" And then my doctor's words... ,"As it turns out, you are only 8 cm dilated. What I thought was just a lip on your cervix isn't. Her head can fit, but her shoulders can't."
I started sobbing as I climbed back onto the bed. The special "meconium team" all turned around and left. 45 minutes of pushing and nothing... She still wasn't here.
But as my breathing slowed and the contractions started once again, I could feel it. The actual, undeniable, insanely strong urge to push. "Okay, I CAN do this."
Even once Selah was here, I felt so incredibly exhausted that the euphoria took a while to settle in. I remember them trying to hand her to me and feeling like, "Can't someone else hold her for a minute while I take a nap?!?"
As it turned out, her cord had a knot in it AND was wrapped around her neck a couple times. Luckily the cord was really long and she was never in any real danger, but I kept saying how she was such a crazy mover all pregnancy! Here is proof.
Once I delivered the placenta (ouch) and Dr. V did the terrible punch-on-my-stomach thing to encourage my uterus to contract (OUCH) I started to feel a lot better. I was still utterly exhausted, really hungry and begging for some pain medicine, but Selah Elizabeth was here.
Look at those rolls!! I thought she was going to be my biggest baby, but she turned out to be the smallest. 7 lbs, 2 oz and 19.5 inches long.
She latched within about 30 minutes of being born, and soon after I fell in love, again, with this tiny, squishy, helpless person who made my world feel complete.
Oh, and her daddy fell in love again too.
This time around I definitely said the words, "I am NEVER doing that again" within about an hour of giving birth to our third incredible daughter. But now, about a month later as I sit typing while she snoozes next to me, I know that I totally would. The happy ending just gets me every time :)