Friday, May 21

Milo's Birth Story

Here it is, two months after his birth, and I'm just getting around to writing Milo's birth story. I suppose I feel like this story deserves my full attention, instead of my usual type-with-one-hand-and-try-to-blog-while-breastfeeding-in-the-middle-of-the-night. But here it is, the middle of the afternoon, and Milo is napping. By himself, in his own room. And I don't have a good excuse not to get started on this story. This is probably way more detail than you're interested in reading, but this is more for me than you. This blog is essentially Milo's baby book, after all. And with no more caveats, here we go.

My due date was March 23, but I was absolutely convinced I would have Milo early, probably at least a week or two early. I didn't really have a good reason to think this. Courtney had Austin 20 days before his due date, and my mom said that both Courtney and I were born five days before our due dates. So I figured I was going to follow suit. Andrew and I were sort of hoping that Milo would be born on 3/14, because that would give him a Pi birthday, and we're sort of nerdy like that. I was also hoping that I would go into labor during the day and avoid that middle of the night, stumbling out of bed to get to the hospital scenario. We were also hoping Milo would be born on a weekend, simply because it would be more convenient in terms of contacting our workplaces. And for one final wish, I was hoping that I would have already had my last official day at work before going on maternity leave, which was scheduled for Friday, March 19.

All in all, we managed to get practically every wish. The only one we missed was Pi, but we ended up with an even cooler date and time of birth. And when it was all over, we had Milo, and that was the most amazing thing of all.

On Sunday, March 21, I woke up around 6:00am. I was pretty uncomfortable, but that was nothing new. My back hurt, and I felt sort of crampy. After tossing and turning for a few minutes, I figured I wasn't getting back to sleep. Frustrated, I got out of bed and went downstairs to watch a little TV before Andrew woke up. For the next hour, I sat on the couch, zoning out to HGTV, and began to notice that the crampy feeling was sort of coming and going. Upon realizing this, I immediately suspected labor. It's not that I knew that this was what I was feeling, but rather that every strange twinge or cramp I felt for the last couple of weeks I had attributed to the potential start of labor. So I started paying more attention. And by 7:30 or so, I was fairly convinced that this was different, that these cramps were contractions and they were in fact coming about ten minutes apart.

My doctor had said that once I was in labor, I shouldn't eat or drink anything besides clear fluids. This appetizing menu included such delicacies as chicken broth, apple juice, Jell-o, and Popsicles. Since I wasn't TOTALLY sure I was in labor, I went ahead and ate a bowl of Quaker oatmeal squares with sliced banana. I thought it was best to eat something and keep my energy up. After all, my friend Emily had just spent 42 hours in labor, and I figured that if this had any chance of taking that long, I needed food.

After breakfast, I went upstairs to wake up Andrew. It was around 8:00 by this time, and my contractions were coming and going, still about ten minutes apart. I sat on the edge of the bed next to him and shook him awake. "I'm pretty sure I'm in labor," I said, and explained what had been going on with me. He was pretty excited, and wanted to start timing contractions right away. I wanted to take a shower and get everything ready to go to the hospital. At my last doctor's appointment, just five days earlier, I had been dilated to three centimeters. I didn't think my labor was going to be a super long one (also going with family history there; Courtney's labor was about four hours start to finish), so I wanted to clean up and get ready.

I took a shower. The hot water felt really good on my back and made the contractions less noticeable. At this point, the contractions weren't especially painful, but felt mostly like bad menstrual cramps. This wasn't a nice feeling, but it was manageable for sure. After the shower, Andrew and I packed the rest of the things we needed into the hospital bag. We were already mostly ready to go, just needed to add the camera, our cell phone chargers, and other electronic stuff to the bag.

From about 9:00 to about 1:00 I labored at home. Andrew had his clipboard and stopwatch, and was dutifully timing every contraction. I tried to eat some red Jell-o and drink some apple juice, but it wasn't tasting very good. The contractions were getting closer and closer together, and definitely more intense. During the contractions, I would pace around the living room or sway my hips back and forth. HGTV was still on, but I wasn't paying much attention. Andrew reminded me to keep breathing and try to relax. As the contractions got stronger, I needed Andrew to apply pressure to my lower back with each one. Sometimes I got frustrated with him, because I would start moaning, and he would ask (several times), "Is one starting? Is that another one?" And it was honestly sort of hard to tell exactly when it would start, but before long there would be no denying that yes, it was another one, and I would nod. And instead of applying pressure to my back like a good husband, Andrew raced to his clipboard to record the start time. I know he was trying to do the right thing and wanted to have a record for the doctor, but dammit, Andrew, I needed my back rubbed!

Being in labor was a strange thing to me. I knew that these were contractions, but they weren't quite like what I was expecting. The books and our childbirth class instructor told us that contractions increase in intensity over time and get closer together over time, and that in between contractions, the pain went away. For me, the pain never fully went away. It was less intense, but I still felt tightness and cramps in my abdomen and lower back the whole time. Also, I would have contractions that were about six minutes apart for awhile, then there would be a break and the next contraction wouldn't come for eleven minutes and it wouldn't be as intense. Then the next would be just three minutes later and would hurt like hell. This inconsistency made me question whether this was true labor or false labor. Also, it was really hard to tell exactly when a contraction started and when it ended, so timing them at all was a very inexact science.

By 1:00, the contractions were right about five minutes apart and had been for an hour. We were supposed to follow the 5-1-1 rule and not call the doctor until the contractions were five minutes apart for one hour and lasted for one minute each. When we thought we were there, Andrew called the doctor and told her where I was with the contractions and all that. She apparently didn't take his word for it and made him give the phone to me. This was sort of irritating because she asked me questions that I had just heard Andrew give her the answers to, and I had to talk to her while the quite-strong-and-painful-at-this-point contractions were happening. She said it sounded like I was in labor and that I should head to the hospital for a labor check.

So we got in the car and headed to the hospital. On the ride there, we noted the remains of the previous day's snowstorm and were thankful that we hadn't had to drive to the hospital in the bad weather. (Side note: it seems to snow out of season just before major events in our lives. It snowed the day before our April wedding, and it snowed the day before Milo's birthday.) It was about a 15-minute drive, and I had three contractions on the way. These were the worst yet. My swaying and back-rub tricks were no good in the car. But we finally made it there, and Andrew dropped me off at the door and went to park the car.

We went up to the maternity floor and they took me to room 308, which would become my home for the next two days. The nurse gave me a robe and instructed me to get undressed so they could do a labor check. I was five centimeters dilated and 100 percent effaced. By 1:30pm I was officially checked in. The next hour or so was the most uncomfortable part of the entire labor. I was stuck in bed because the nurses needed to monitor all kinds of stuff. I was given an IV (which took several stabs before they got it, leaving the backs of both my hands black and blue for several days), a tight blood-pressure cuff, two bands around my belly to monitor contractions and the baby's heart rate, and a finger cuff to monitor my heart rate. I was unable to get up from the bed, and the next several contractions were torture. It just really, really, hurt, and I don't quite know how to explain it. At some point Andrew had called our parents, and my mom was now in the hospital room with us. While Andrew went to the car to get our bags (I wanted the vibrating massager we had brought), my mom fed me ice chips. It was less than an hour that I was stuck in bed, but it felt like an eternity. They did let me sit on a birth ball right next to the bed, but I didn't find it very helpful. It was slightly better than being in the bed, but it didn't do much to help me deal with the pain, so I gave up on that pretty quick. I wanted to listen to my "relaxation" playlist, but found most of the songs terrible—until a Carla Bruni song came on. Then I asked Andrew to just play the Carla Bruni album. That was nice.

I really wanted to get in the shower for a little hydrotherapy, but it wasn't until 2:30 that they unhooked me (reluctantly) from the machines to head into the bathroom. Andrew came with me and sprayed my back with the hot water while I swayed through the next few contractions. At this point, I was six centimeters dilated and the nurse thought I was moving pretty quickly. She warned me that if I wanted an epidural, I shouldn't wait too long to start it or it would be too late. By then, I knew I wanted the epidural. The pain was really intense, and I wanted it to go away. While the hot water felt so good, I only spent about three contractions in the shower before getting out in order to start the epidural process.

Before they could start the epidural, I had to get a bunch of IV fluids. Again, I was hooked up to all sorts of monitors, and again, had to just lay there and try to breathe through the contractions. By 3:00, the anesthesiologist was there, and I was getting the epidural. I had to sit on the edge of the bed and hunch over as much as I could, then between contractions, she first gave me a numbing shot, then inserted the epidural catheter and taped it in place. It wasn't too bad. Having all that tape on my back was the most uncomfortable part of the epidural. It took about twenty or thirty minutes before it really took effect. Around 3:30 my water broke, which was a very weird sensation. I was a little bit numb then, but could still feel my legs. I just felt this release of pressure and a bunch of warm fluid between my legs. "Um," I said. "I think my water broke." The nurse took a peek, and yes, it sure had. She was kind enough to change out the bedding and give me a fresh gown. I was relieved that my water had broken on its own—I think they were planning to break it, but I would much rather have everything just proceed at its own pace.

By 3:45, the epidural had taken hold and I felt pretty great. I couldn't feel my abdomen or my legs. No more pain from contractions. At one point, my hand was resting in my lap and I felt something odd, something unrecognizable. I looked down, and saw that it was just my leg. Weird. I didn't know I had been touching it at all. The nurses checked me again at 3:50, and I was 8 centimeters. My mom went back out to the waiting area. The next time she'd see me she'd have a new grandchild. Andrew and I just hung out in the room and enjoyed ourselves. We watched the first two episodes of Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog, which is awesome. We shot a couple of videos of us talking about how we couldn't believe we were about to be parents. I saw Andrew sneak a granola bar, and I was jealous. I was getting pretty hungry by then. Ice chips just weren't cutting it.

We weren't sure how much longer it would be, but we figured we only had a couple more hours before pushing would start. I was nervous about pushing, but not because of the pain. I'm not sure why. Tearing, maybe? Or just fear because I had no idea how to do it? There's no good way to practice that, I think.

At 5:05, the nurse came in for another check. I was 9+, and she said I was AC, for Almost Complete. She said I'd start pushing at 5:30. And so we waited. There is really nothing like the feeling of knowing that you have less than half an hour until your life is going to change forever. (Of course, it turned out that I had nearly two hours before my life changed forever, but there was no way of knowing that at the beginning.) Just after 5:30, my doctor came in and they began to get everything ready for pushing. The foot of the bed dropped away, the stirrups were put in place along with handles for me to grip. The bright overhead light was turned on, and a large mirror was rolled in (so I could watch).

And then it was time. Because I couldn't feel the contractions, the nurses told me when to push. For each contraction, I was to hold my breath and push for ten seconds, three times. I had imagined that the pushing part of labor would be really intense, with constant action. Instead, it was pretty calm. There was actually a lot of waiting. Between contractions, I would try to catch my breath, and my doctor and the nurses chatted about their families and the weather and whatnot. This was clearly a more momentous occasion for me than it was for them. Anyway, lots of pushing. The mirror helped me see when I was doing it the right way because I could see his head move (which is totally weird; there's really nothing like it). Ten to fifteen contractions and about an hour and forty-five minutes later, Milo was born. I will never forget the way he looked, all slippery and purplish-gray, with swollen lips and eyes and only a slight cone head. Milo weighed 8 pounds, 4.9 ounces. He was 20.5 inches long. He was born at 6:54pm (And with a birth date of 3/21, that gives you 6-5-4-3-2-1. Pretty cool, no? Much cooler than being born on Pi.).

Describing the way I felt in those first few moments is a whole other entry. Maybe I'll get to that one by the time Milo is three months old. But for now, there you have it. The story of the birth of Milo Jones Langford.


Lindsay said...

I've been wanting to hear this story. So glad you posted it!

Grandma Susan said...

Milo's birth story gives me goose bumps all over again. Isn't your precious boy worth everything you went through? He's definitely a keeper. We will do our best to spoil him!!!