February 19, 2015

Birth Story: Claire

Claire Marie Trudelle
August 19, 2014
8:33 pm

She was due on August 17th, but I was convinced that this baby girl would be early.  She felt lower than I remember Miles feeling and seemed so heavy.  My sister (who was due in December) came into town, and planned to leave the day after my due date.  To be honest, I wasn't worried that she wouldn't meet the baby. This baby was going to come early!

My first piece of advice to pregnant women is to never count on having your baby early.  Sure, babies do come early, but if you expect this, then by the time your due date arrives, you will feel overdue.  And you aren't.  You are due around that time.  In fact, I read somewhere, that in some countries, women have a "due month," not a date.  If you really think about it, why does it make sense to pin all of our expectations on a particular day?

Even so, when Robin left, I gave her a hug goodbye and almost burst into tears.  Steve's family was also in town, and his parents would be leaving a few days later.  As my due date came and went, I had to keep reminding myself that just because our family members were leaving, this didn't mean that the baby would not be coming!  It sounds silly, but when I remembered this, I felt better.  I had more time to organize, rest, and prepare for what I hoped would be a much "easier" labor and birth.

I had decided that this time I would use some of the ideas in a book called HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method.  I read the book, a part of me not believing a lot of what it claimed (women could experience an essentially pain-free birth), and another part of me loving the principles and strategies it explained (some degree of relaxation is possible, and practicing breathing and visualizing can help).  One part of the book focused on letting go of past labor experiences, and after Miles's marathon birth, I really needed to read this. In my final weeks of pregnancy, I fell asleep every night, listening to the relaxation track, practicing the different kinds of breathing that were suggested in the book.  I felt ready.

On August 18th, we decided to show Steve's parents around Edmonds, a town outside of Seattle.  My mom met us for dinner, and we ate a restaurant with a special name.  Of course we joked that I would probably go into labor after eating at Claire's Restaurant.  It turns out, we weren't that wrong.

I woke up at around 6:30 on Tuesday morning, August 19th.  Something felt different--my pants were wet!  My water probably broke sometime early that morning, but I wasn't feeling any contractions.  I called the doctor's office and the on-call doctor told me that we should come in within a few hours.  Steve's parents, who were staying at a house nearby, came to watch Miles, I called my mom to let her know what was happening, and we packed our things and told Miles we were going to see the doctor.  I still wonder if he knew what we really meant when he saw us leave early that morning.

It felt so strange to be driving to the hospital without any pain at all, knowing that the baby would be coming that day. In fact, Steve asked if we should stop for coffee.  Sure, why not?

We checked in at the hospital and the nurse confirmed that my water had indeed broken.  But since I wasn't feeling any major contractions, I probably wasn't dilated.  She said that we could go for a walk around the hospital grounds (it was a beautiful day), and that we would meet with the doctor in a few hours to discuss a plan.  We walked around, stopped at the hospital's Starbucks, and did a bunch of stairs in the parking garage.  I was still in awe that nothing was really starting to happen.  We also gave my mom a call to check in (she would be taking over for Steve's parents who needed to leave for the airport).  When she answered, I knew something was wrong.  Her voice was soft and slow, and she sounded like she was in pain.  "Well, I kind of got side-tracked," she said, and proceeded to explain that she was also in the hospital for abdominal pains that had started that morning.  My poor poor mom was experiencing an intense bout of diverticulitis and needed to stay in the hospital.  She said she'd keep us posted.  Steve's mom decided to delay her flight home for a few days to care for Miles and meet her newest granddaughter.  We are still so grateful for that!

Around noon we met with the doctor who was scheduled to work that day.  I was a little disappointed that my own doctor wouldn't be the one there.  But this doctor was very kind, and said that she would recommend getting Pitocin going soon to move things along.  While I never questioned having Pitocin during Miles's birth, I started to wonder if this was really necessary this time.  Wouldn't things just start on their own?  At the same time, I trusted the doctor, and knew that I was far from having this baby with no contractions.  Bring on the IV!

Meanwhile, Steve was perfecting his skills at ordering meals from the hospital cafeteria.  His first piece of advice to fathers-to-be is always about the "secrets" of ordering a free meal.  Call the number on the menu and say the following: "Yes, my wife would like the spaghetti and meatballs, a side salad, and the lasagna with soup.  She'd also like some chocolate cake and a side of fries."
In all seriousness, when Steve wasn't eating (and even while he was!), he was my biggest supporter and encourager.  And, he was about to become even more involved than we both had planned. :)

By the time they came to put in my IV, my mom had called to say that she had convinced the doctor to discharge her from the hospital.  She was armed with medications, tired and still in pain, but determined to be there.  I knew that I couldn't change her mind.  After 3 attempts to put in my IV, I was finally hooked up to the Pitocin around 4 pm.  It was go time!
It didn't take more than an hour or so before the contractions started coming.  I can almost remember the first time I had to really breathe through a contraction.  I was happily chatting with whoever was in the room when suddenly it hit.  To me, contractions feel like a blood pressure cuff tightening around your entire middle, but with take-your-breath-away pain.  I told Steve that he should call our friend, Paige, who was going to come to be my photographer and all-around cheerleader.   
By this time, the day doctor's shift was close to ending, and my doctor's day at the clinic was also over, so she came over to the hospital to help with my labor and delivery.  When Paige also showed up, I can't tell you how happy I was.  I had my dream team there (except for my sister!) and knew that with these people by my side, I could do anything.
I was amazed at how easy it was to move into the breathing exercises I had been practicing.  I also found that closing my eyes helped, as I was able to visualize my baby and my body doing the work it was meant to do.  I sat on a yoga ball, had Steve massage my back, and then decided to get into the tub to relax.  
Lying in the tub felt great until I suddenly started to feel very shaky.  I wasn't sure if it was the water or whether my body was beginning to go into transition, but I felt that I needed to get out.  Once in bed, I had to really focus on not shaking uncontrollably.  The doctor checked me and I was only at 5 cm.  My heart sunk.  With Miles I had been stuck at 7 cm with many hours of labor still to go.  She said she'd come back and check on me in an hour or so.
Around 6:30, I was finally more relaxed, but experiencing very intense contractions very close together.  I remember being so focused on each breath and telling myself over and over to relax my muscles.  I had entered the part of labor where I tuned out almost everything around me.  It was time to focus and get this baby out!
When my doctor returned, sure enough, I had moved from 5 cm to 10 cm, and was ready to push.  I wanted to sit, but each contraction took so much out of me, that I also wanted to lie down in between.  I don't know whose idea it was, but Steve turned into my back pillow.  He sat behind me, with some pillows between us so that I could fall back and rest in between pushes.  He says now that it was a very strange perspective to have at that time.  He felt as if he were the one pushing too, and got to see what I saw--the doctor and nurses moving about, ready to catch a baby.
After about an hour of pushing, Claire entered the world.  She was a little blue and didn't cry, so the nurses jostled her around, and quickly suctioned her nose again and again.  I was scared, but noticed that my doctor was calm.  I knew everything would be ok.  They put her on my chest and she was so warm and perfect.  And then she cried.  A perfect, loud cry.  It's was a feeling unlike anything else.
Immediately, I felt so much love for this little baby, and so much relief to have her in my arms.  I felt proud, tired, and invigorated, all at the same time.  With Miles's birth, I had been too exhausted to really soak in the joy of those first moments.  But here, I felt every bit of it.
Baby Claire had a tuft of light brown hair and was chubbier than I had imagined she would be.  We made predictions about her weight and were shocked when the scale read 8 pounds 15 ounces.    
That evening, we ordered pizza and replayed the day's events, marveling at how different one birth story can be from the next.  
The next morning, Steve's mom brought Miles in to meet his baby sister.  As we expected, he was cautious and quickly distracted by the novelty of the hospital.  To this day, he isn't the most adoring brother, but I am sure this will change.  He'll be her biggest fan someday.
We left the hospital the next day, already tired, but so incredibly grateful.  I thank God every day for this little family and am richly blessed by these gifts: my husband and two children.
I can't thank my friend Paige enough for the time she spent with us at the hospital. Many of these photos are hers, and she even videotaped while she was there.  For those who would like to see, here's Claire's birth story on video: