Jo's Birth Story: A Magical Moment in Time.
Jo’s due date was December 1st but I was definitely hoping she would come Thanksgiving weekend. I was huge and swollen and so ready to be DONE! After a suspiciously high blood pressure reading at my 38th week appointment (the nurse took my pressure through my sweater sleeve), I was sent down to Labor and Delivery (L&D) to be checked out for preeclampsia. After keeping me for some time and getting perfect blood pressure reading after perfect blood pressure reading, they sent me home with a urine collection kit. That’s right, all Thanksgiving Day I collected my urine and put it in a jug on ice...not my dream holiday experience. Everything came back negative, and while I went down twice a week for monitoring, everything was as perfect as could be. My amniotic fluid was at very high levels and my placenta was very healthy. It was at one of these monitoring sessions that the nurse said, “Look at that hair!” They offered to induce me a week before her due date, since they predicted she was going to be nearly 10 pounds. I was so tempted, but I declined.
Friday, December 1
My due date arrived, and other than a few Braxton Hicks here and there, nothing was happening. We scheduled an induction for a week later (41 weeks) with my OB and hoped she would come before then. I started having primordial labor on the ride home and we decided to stop at Lowe’s for some random things. Through a series of hilarious events, we got locked out of our truck and had to sit on the tailgate while we waited for the tow truck to arrive. Andrew’s key fob decided not to work, and his key wouldn’t unlock the truck door, even though it would start the ignition (it had worn with the ignition and refused to fit the door locks). We thought the battery had died in the key fob, thus the trip to Lowe’s. It turns out that something was wrong with the receiver and the truck had to be in the shop for the whole entire week and we brought Jo home in my tiny Yaris instead. I believe it was that night that my plug came out and I knew Jo's arrival wasn’t far away!
Saturday, December 2
I became convinced that I was going into real labor. I was timing my “contractions” and they were coming about two minutes apart and getting close to going on for two hours (that’s when we could go to the hospital). We decided to go down to Andrew’s parent’s house, which was closer to the hospital, and see what happened. We hung out all day while my “contractions” came and went. At the the end of the day, we went home, a little deflated. I was increasingly confused as to why my “contractions” weren’t more painful. They just felt like a muscle spasm but they weren't really painful.
Sunday, December 3
I believe we hung out at home the entire day and probably binged-watched Hawaii Five-O. I continued to have “contractions” that petered off after about an hour or two.
Monday, December 4
We had another monitoring appointment and I could see my “contractions” on the monitor. I so desperately wanted to go into full-blown labor at the hospital, but nope! I was sent home, still in "false" labor.
Tuesday, December 5
Morning: I woke up to a contraction between 6:30am and 7am, but this time, it was more intense and more painful. And then another one came a few minutes later. I knew something was different, and while I was pretty sure I was going into real labor, I told Andrew to go to work because I didn’t know if these contractions were going to come and go too. I took a shower and laid on my bed, looking at my phone. I started reading on Facebook about a fire in Ventura, a fire in Castaic, a fire near Sylmar, and that they were closing down portions of the freeways. I texted Andrew around 11am and told him he should come home and we should get out of Santa Clarita - the contractions hadn’t stopped and they were pretty painful, coming about every 2-4 minutes. He came home, we grabbed our bags, and drove down to Westwood in my little Yaris. The valley was so full of smoke, we could hardly see anything around us. My contractions continued to get more intense during the car ride.
We checked into Labor and Delivery, and after my exam, they told me I was just a couple of centimeters dilated and that the baby was definitely coming, but that I was still in early labor. I was told that I needed to go home and labor more on my own because I wasn’t planning on having any pain management. They suggested walking around the campus or Westwood, since actually going home wasn’t an option due to the distances and fires. My contractions were pretty intense at this point, definitely focused in my back, with shooting pain down my legs with every contraction. Walking or being in public was not an option to me and I was so distraught. I had read how important it was to have a dim, calm place to labor in, where you can relax and feel safe (like animals will do in the wild). I was panicked that I didn’t have that and it was literally all I could think about. The resident, Alec, also told me that I could have complications because my baby was measuring so large and that I should basically consider a c-section because the baby’s shoulder could get caught behind my pubic bone and she could suffocate (shoulder dystocia). That made me panic even more. My husband had texted his mom an update, and within five minutes, his dad had booked us a room in a cute little hotel across the street, that was owned by UCLA. It was the last room available!
Afternoon: We headed over to Panera to grab some quick lunch - I was craving their Steak and White Cheddar panini and soup. I remember sitting in the restaurant, having contractions every two-three minutes, and having trouble acting like nothing was happening. We finally got our food and went over to the hotel. By this point, I was having so much trouble acting like everything was normal, that I stayed in the car while Andrew checked in. We settled into the hotel room and watched Hawaii Five-O while we ate our food. I ate my soup and half my sandwich and couldn’t finish it (I'm still sad I didn't get to finish that other half). I suddenly couldn’t stand watching anything, and went to lay down on the bed. I was panicked about whether I should have a c-section or not - my actual OB hadn’t talked about this at all - so I called the L&D unit and talked to the nicest resident named Abby, who assured me that they don’t do c-sections just because they feared shoulder dystocia, and that it could happen with any baby of any size. She assured me that the doctors at UCLA wanted me to have a vaginal birth, if at all possible, and would do everything in their power to make that happen. I felt so relieved. I tried sitting in the bathtub, but the sides and water weren’t high enough to get any relief. I found that if Andrew put pressure on my hips, I got significant amount of relief from my leg pain.
Evening: My mother-in-law came over and hung out with us. I think she brought food for Andrew. I remember I found a nice spot on the side of the bed where I could breathe through the contractions and I found some relief. I did that for a while and tried some different positions, but because the back and leg labor was so bad, nothing really helped. I kept timing my contractions and getting really frustrated that we weren’t at the hospital yet.
Night: Around 10pm or 11pm, my contractions were getting a little closer together and I was incredibly uncomfortable. We decided to go to the hospital and I remember I was crying because I was so afraid they would tell us to go “home” again and I couldn’t imagine trying to come back to the hotel…that was literally across the street. The OB resident on call was the sweetest woman named, Abby, (I had talked to her earlier), with the cutest glasses and red hair - she seriously looked like Anne of Green Gables. She checked me out and I was around five or six centimeters. She noticed a slight dip in Jo’s heart rate with each contraction, so she admitted us and Andrew's mom left to go get some sleep. We finally got into the birth suite and I felt so relieved.
The wee hours: After laying on the bed for a while, I got in the shower and Andrew sprayed my back for about half an hour. It didn’t help the pain very much but I was able to zone out for a little while. Nothing helped the pain like Andrew pressing against my hips. I laid on the bed for a while and let Andrew get some sleep. Around 4am, an OB came in, checked me and said I was at 6 cm, almost 7 cm. My water hadn’t broken yet and she offered to break it for me whenever I was ready. She said that breaking the water would help the labor speed up but would also make everything more intense. I had been in labor around 21 hours at this point and neither of us had gotten much sleep. I knew I had about four more centimeters to go and I had no clue how long that would take. So I decided to get an epidural. I was so distressed that I needed one and mentally fought myself about it because I felt weak that I had to get one and I had been so determined not to have one. I was also really scared I wouldn’t be able to hold still while the anesthesiologist placed the needle. But I decided to go for it because I couldn’t take the leg pain anymore and I was so tired. If it had just been in my abdomen, I could have handled it but the shooting pain down my hips and legs was too much.
Early morning: The anesthesiologist came and placed the catheter in my back, which was no big deal at all. Apparently it can take up to twenty minutes to do but he did it in maybe two minutes. Knowing that relief was coming suddenly made the contractions much less painful and I was able to sit still and quiet. He numbed the area, placed the needle and catheter, removed the needle, and gave me a tiny dose to see if it was placed correctly. I was already feeling so much better and had them break my water. I could feel sensation but no pain. My contractions felt like little bits of pressure. I also had to remind the nurse that I needed a catheter for my pee, since I wouldn’t be able to walk around. My legs felt like they were slightly asleep and very heavy, but I could still move them. Once everything was set, Andrew and I fell asleep for several hours.
Morning: I woke up around 7am or 8am and felt just amazing (I had been in labor for 24 hours now). The contractions were a little more painful, kind of like a light menstrual cramp with a lot of pressure, but no more leg pain. I chewed on ice chips, looked at my phone, and chatted with the nurse. She told me there was a fire near the Getty, but not to worry because “we’re safe here.” I told her my entire town was currently on fire and I honestly had no idea if my apartment building was even still standing.
They checked me again at 9am and told me I was 10 cm, completely ready, and could started pushing in an hour. This seemed crazy to me because I was so comfy and cozy, and seriously felt no desire or need to push. My mother-in-law came back around this time and I believe Andrew went down to get breakfast at some point. At 10am, the nurse came in and had Andrew hold one of my legs and Lisa hold the other while I started to push. She directed me to push like I was pushing out a poop, to curl my neck with each push, and to push three times for ten seconds with each contraction. It literally felt like nothing was happening for a while. She got me this amazing bar that attached to the bed over me. I put my feet up on the sides and grabbed a sheet that was looped around the top. Then I could pull myself up while I pushed. This was amazing and the nurse said I was making great progress. She had me squat for a couple of contractions but it didn’t feel great, since I didn’t have good control over my legs and I was afraid I would crush the baby’s head (I had some very weird misconceptions about how labor actually worked for my body in comparison to other stories I had heard). I continued using the bar and began to feel a little stretching and pressure. I remember the nurse putting a washcloth on my forehead, which felt nice…later, Andrew said it was because I was sweating so much. The OB on call was not my actual OB, but I really didn’t care at that point. The nurse tried holding a mirror and I could see a little bit of wet, black hair way in there. I kept pushing three times for ten seconds with each contraction, (which was about every two minutes), and the nurse handed me oxygen, which was amazing and helped me recover so much faster. I continued to feel more and more pressure and stretching as baby worked her way down the canal. I had no idea it could take such a long time for Jo to make it out once I started pushing! I was making headway with each push but it was millimeters at a time. I also never felt out of control or like my body wanted to take over and push. Soon, they could see her head starting to appear with each push. I asked the nurse if the doctors were going to come in or what was happening. She said if I made good progress with the next contraction, she would call the doctors in. Challenge accepted. A few seconds later, she made a call and within a minute, there was twenty people in my room. Two residents, one or two attending OBs, a team from the NICU because Jo had pooped in the amniotic fluid a little bit, and they wanted to make sure she was alright, and a ton of nurses and interns. They took away the bottom half of the bed and pulled a huge light down from the ceiling. They put stirrups for me to put my feet in and directed me to push with the next contraction. The pressure was so intense at this point, I couldn’t last the full ten seconds. I felt really frustrated with myself, like I wasn’t doing a good job, when suddenly, right at the end of the last push, Jo came flying out at 12:14pm. I felt sudden relief, a slight catch of her shoulder, and then a wriggly feeling like a snake. I find it incredibly ironic that it was the resident, Alec, who had freaked me out about shoulder dystocia, who caught her like a football. All I could think, before I opened my eyes, was, “she’s out, she’s out, it felt like a snake, that’s what my grandma told me it would feel like!” Then I heard a tiny little cry, and then they threw her on top of me for skin to skin. I remember looking down at her, all quivery and wet, looking up at me, and I just held her and sobbed.
I remember it was so hard to look down at her because I had to left my neck and it hurt from all the pushing. Then I heard, “Ooop, here comes the placenta!” like they were surprised. It felt like I was giving birth to a giant pillow and I didn't have to push at all. It was so large and heavy, the resident almost dropped it and then the nurse who was holding the metal bowl almost dropped it. I kept asking to see it and they showed me for like a minute. It was almost a big as Jo! A nurse came over and cleanup up her face and actually latched her onto me for couple of minutes. They started stitching me up and that took about an hour. I had a third degree tear, with one main tear and lots of little tears branching off from it. They had to numb me up quite a bit while doing the stitching and were surprised at how much I could feel, which made me think I didn’t have quite enough epidural and probably felt a lot of what was happening. They weighed Jo and she was 8 pounds, 12 ounces, 20.5 inches long, which was significantly less than they had predicted.
In all, my birth was an incredible experience and I can’t wait to do it again! The moment Jo entered the world was the most magical moment and just thinking about it makes me cry. While I felt very disconnected from her during my pregnancy, I bonded with her almost immediately and the bond has only gotten stronger as times passes. The twenty-nine hours I spent in labor feels about like half that amount, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.