In 10 short days Brylee turns 3! It's just a few calendar checks until "our baby" turns "our oldest" and preschooler and big sister. All she knows is she wants a cake with candles to blow out, a princess hat, perhaps some dancing and to sing "Happy Birthday." And when it comes to that baby brother, she just wants to "hold him" (complete with swinging cuddled arms and cheeks scrunched with baby talk). Oh, how innocent!
In celebration of (preparation for?) this "Big 3" and the not-yet-dated birth of Baby Boy, I decided to write out Brylee's Birth Day story--the unedited version. (No worries about it being graphic; I'm not a graphic person. But if you're not into birth stories, obviously just don't read.)
Exactly a week before I went into labor (38 weeks baked), I woke up in the night with terrible cramping. I mean, cramping that made me long for menstrual cramps. I switched positions numerous times, moaned, rocked, kicked Daniel for not waking up, moaned some more. I never checked the time or went further than out our bedroom door (walking wasn't helping), so I don't know how long this lasted. I'd guess no more than 30-60 minutes, because any longer and I would have had Daniel driving me to the hospital. But it eventually eased. I rolled over and fell asleep and more or less forgot about it. I didn't realize until later that this counts as a significant part of labor. (In name of "unedited" I'll also note that these "contractions" were induced by sex. I still believe sex doesn't work for self-induction unless the baby is ready; apparently our baby was ready. Further clarification: we weren't trying to induce.)
Four days later, I had my 39 week check up. I was sure I couldn't deliver without an epidural and in my reading was startled that some doctors will have a cut off when it can't be given. I was asking my doctor about this and was refreshed to learn she felt it could be given anytime up until the baby was crowning. She proceeded to note that most women planning to get an epidural are in enough pain to request and receive it by 4 or 5 cm dilated. She then proceeded to do my internal exam and found I was already 5 cm dilated. She left off the visit saying she'd see me the following week, if I didn't check myself in the hospital sooner. Apparently those cramps had already gotten me half way!
That afternoon I went home and rearranged the entire living room while Daniel was at work (I knew he wouldn't approve of me doing it and would complain about helping). I didn't have any other noticeable contractions or cramping of any sort until three days later (39 weeks baked). The contractions were firm enough to be felt on the outside, but weren't painful by any means and weren't regular at all. Daniel and I went home and napped the entire afternoon away. We woke up around 8 or 9 that evening with just enough time and mustered up just enough energy to throw on clothes to go to a friends Christmas party. I remember waking up from that nap feeling a wonderful combination of rested and pathetic. It was perfect.
We left the Christmas party around 11:30p. Still no regular contractions. Getting into the car I felt some wetness and complained about the "stupid discharge" and other uncomfortable details that come with pregnancy. I remember Daniel asking about my water breaking and I said I didn't think so. We drove the couple minutes to our house and as I opened the door to go inside I felt a more distinct flow of liquid that absolutely felt like I was involuntarily wetting my pants. I told Daniel, "Either I'm a grown woman peeing my pants or my water just broke." We both excitedly went inside, getting our bag together and altogether busily doing nothing. I grabbed some new sweats, a maxi pad I had purchased for post-delivery and made my way to the bathroom in attempts to "clean up" before heading to the hospital. A minute or two on the toilet I laughingly noted out loud that it wouldn't be stopping anytime soon so we should just go.
The car ride to the hospital was surreal. The packed-snow-covered roads were barren of cars. Frost left on the corners of the windshield sparkled in the streetlights. And a few bumps into the ride a contraction started. My first, painful "real" contraction. We found our way to the birthing wing (birthing classes didn't fit with our schedule and somehow we never made it over for a tour either). They sent me to the bathroom with a cup for sample-leaving, a one-size-fits-all gown, mesh panties and an over-sized pad (and I thought the overnight maxis I bought were huge!). If I thought that the ongoing peeing-my-pants-sensation and the ill-timed breath-taking contractions were limiting, boy the gown-panty-pad combo really topped off the whole theme of out-of-control discomfort. Oh, and lugging around an IV cart so I could walk out contractions was a nice cherry on top. Now I knew why people waited to go to the hospital--even if they knew they were in labor. The nurses did their other checks and I was 6 cm dilated.
My sister and a couple friends made it by for a visit. I enjoyed the company and was happy to still be coping with the pain. I was reminded that it'd take time for the anesthesiologist to get there once I decided I was ready for an epidural, so I decided to go ahead and have him called. I wasn't about to be one of those cases where the patient was told it was too late!
It was around 3 a.m. that I got the epidural. Between the contraction pain and the instant relief I couldn't tell you what that huge needle felt like going in; it felt like just what I needed, right when I needed it. Daniel and I stayed up a bit, but as everything settled, he retreated to a corner for a nap while I got a little rest too. I don't remember how long it took me to reach each number between 6 cm and pushing time, but it happened with no further assistance.
It was by 5 a.m. that they got me started pushing. The doctor and nurses were getting everything prepared at the baby's "landing" station, another nurse gave Daniel a crash course in being the delivery coach. He held onto one leg, calmly counting the numbers for me to push and reminding when to relax. His direction was exactly what I needed. Gotta say, I didn't feel a thing so I don't know how she was pushed out, but it worked. Brylee Annelynn was born 6:05 a.m. Sunday, December 16, 2007 (at 39 weeks baked :) . She was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20 in. long.
Daniel cut the cord and they brought her around for me to see, rubbing her off while she lay on my chest. Looking at those first pictures now, I know I didn't see the specifics of her, just a healthy, round-faced beautiful little princess that I fell in love with. They moved her where they could weigh and measure her, put drops in her eyes and whatever else they do. Sometime in there I had a couple more pushes to deliver "the rest" and they had 1 "precautionary" stitch to give me, but except for them mentioning it, I didn't notice any of that because my focus was on her.
The brightly lit, crowded room soon emptied and dimmed until just our little family of 3 was left alone in a dark room. The epidural had slowed her heart rate a bit; they said her spending some time on my chest close to my heart would help. Just past the top of her perfect little head I could see the monitor not improving. Feeling as though I had just ran a marathon, I began to cry thinking I had no stability left to help her. The stress, of course, wasn't helping. Daniel scooped her up in his arms. He looked so perfectly natural holding his little baby girl, needing no direction to do so. He gazed down at her and sang her a song he made up on the spot. Something about her birth and wearing mommy out and how everything would be just fine. This moment is priceless in my memory, and as I look back on it, was just a foresight of their special bond.
It seemed instantly, but was probably 30-45 minutes later a nurse returned to take Brylee to the nursery for a better cleaning and check-up, and Daniel followed. My sister stayed with me through the move from delivery room, and I couldn't even tell you when Daniel and Brylee returned.
Everything that followed in those two days are a blur, with only the occasional memory sticking out in my mind, in no particular order. A nurse spent a little time with us talking about how much to feed Brylee and what to expect in those first diaper changes. No matter how much I read or prepared, the hands-on support really made the difference in that sleep-deprived beginning. From the beginning, the nurses shirt, hat and swaddle newborns, so those first seconds were all I had seen up close of Brylee. It was fun to unwrap her from her swaddling like a little Christmas present, discovering her unique little features and identifying marks, like her little pinky toes that curled under like her daddy's. She slept throughout that first day, then stayed up through the night. Daniel was amazing getting up to walk with her and feed and change her. The next night I was a little more rested and sure on my feet so I got up with her myself for the first time. It was scary and intimidating and I felt like I didn't know any of the right things to do. I don't know how it happened, but between the two of us, Daniel was the natural parent.
In the whole stay I left my room to walk down the hall only once. Everything was too sore, and I knew I'd have the rest of my life to walk to my heart's content. We had lots of company--family that came into town and friends before they left for Christmas break (Brylee was born Sunday of finals). There was something about the commotion that was comforting.
That first car ride home I couldn't stop peeking back at the little package we had bundled up in the backseat. For the time-being, our family was complete.
Update: See Ian's birth story >> here and see Oliver's birth story >> here.