Thursday, March 20, 2014

{Miss Maylin} A Birth Story

This post has been a long time coming, that's for sure. Maylin will be one in less than two weeks {um, what}. Yes, ONE year old. Holy goodness, but where has this year gone? It's passed waaaay faster than any other year of my life, and the nine {but really ten if you count the weeks} months I was pregnant with her drug by compared to the nine/ten months I spent with her after she was born. I'm not sure what this says about how quickly Hartlie's first nine months of life will be...pretty freaked out about that.

 I've been going through "old" pictures of Maylin while putting together a 12 month birthday banner for her party and I've also been gathering pictures to make a photo book of her first year. Additionally I've promised myself that I would complete her first year baby book {not sure why I feel so compelled to have a photo book and a baby book, but I do, and I'm sorry in advance to my future children who will probably luck out to get a few photos snapped of them at all...} before Hartlie comes so I won't be distracted by all that newborn baby smell and completely forget to finish it. Because that would be a travesty. Naturally.

So. This all has had me going back through the trusty archives of my iphone camera roll and pulling out the best pictures of Maylin's first year of life to send to Shutterfly and Walgreens respectively. I'm feeling nostalgic to say the least {did I mention that already? No? Prepare to read it more than once}.  It occured to me months ago that I've never put Maylin's birth story to virtual paper, and that I'd better do it before getting her birth experience all muddled in my mind with Hartlie's. I've never sat down to do it, because quite frankly I know it will take a large chunk of my time, and secondly because I know reminiscing about it will make me feel sadly nostalgic. But I figure 'tis the season, now, so why not? 

If you aren't into birth stories, or think they all read the same, or are too queasy about squeamish things, or just don't have the extra 15 minutes of time to read what is already shaping up to be a lengthy post, just stop scrolling now. I promise to do my best not to indulge any details that are too personal or explicit or just too much. Although this is a blog that's thus far been mainly about motherhood and pregnancy so a little bit of graphic info is bound to pop up. You've been warned.

 A whole year later and I'm not quite sure where to begin. This is partly the reason why I've procrastinated writing this post. Won't do that when Hartlie is born. There are so many things I will do differently the second time around with Hartlie, as I've learned so much with Maylin. But I digress.

I was induced to give birth to Maylin on March 28,  four days before her due date. Michael and I made the decision to be induced early based on several factors. 1} My doctor, whose years of experience we both deeply trust and respect, was going to be out of town the week of my due date and wouldn't have been on call to deliver Maylin if she arrived within the 7 day time frame he was gone. 2} Michael and I both desperately wanted my doctor, the one who had cared for us the entire pregnancy and knew me and my case, to be the doctor to deliver Maylin. We weren't comfortable having an on-call doctor who we didn't know and who wasn't familiar with me "catch the baby." 3} When my doctor checked my progress during my 39th week of pregnancy, I was already dilated to 1 cm and effaced 50%. We felt these were good indicators that I was "ready" to go into labor and that induction wouldn't be forcing my body to do something it hadn't already started on its own. 4} My doctor had been completely up front with us throughout my pregnancy of his absence the week of my due date, and induction was a topic that was discussed repeatedly. This did not come as a shock to Michael and me, nor were we pressured into a situation we weren't comfortable with.

I feel the need to explain all this because I know more and more people are leaning toward a more natural form of childbirth these days. It's a hot trend, and I've extensively read many books, articles, and personal blogs highlighting the pros and cons of both medicated, hospital births and natural home births. While having an unmedicated birth has always been on my "bucket list," it was not the case for us with Maylin, and I am okay with that. We made the right choice for our situation.

We saw my doctor on a Tuesday, exactly a week before my due date. After the examination, my doctor sat back and leveled his gaze and Michael and me. "Want to have a baby on Thursday?" he asked. I remember the intense feeling of shock, excitement, and nervousness that swept over me like a tidal wave, and apparently it felt the same for Michael because we looked at each other with the same wide-eyed expression on our faces. After regaining our composure and having a detailed conversation with each other in private, and then again with our doctor, we decided to proceed with the induction. We left the hospital in a state of anxious euphoria, a feeling that repeated itself many times over the next week.

We went on an impromptu date to a nice restaurant in a nearby city that night, knowing it would be our last for a very long time. I will never forget the feeling of sitting at our candlelight dinner KNOWING that our baby, our long-awaited little girl, would be arriving in less than 48 hours. It was surreal in the truest sense of the word. I don't think I've ever felt quite that way in my life, before or since. I spent the next day completing my packing of my hospital bag, gathering the last of Maylin's things, straightening an already pristine nursery, getting last minute advice from my friend that had her first baby merely 10 days before, and emailing my cousin {who is a labor and delivery nurse} about what to expect once we got to the hospital. I'm not sure how Michael or I actually fell asleep that night...

We were instructed to be at the hospital at 6:00 AM Thursday, March 28, and we walked through the darkened parking lot and were there, checking in, at exactly 5:55. {Overly excited? Only a little.} I was set up in a room by the sweetest, kindest, most personable nurses you could ever meet, which is saying something considering these were the night nurses who had already worked a full shift. In fact, before I continue I really must comment on the nurses who cared for us during our labor, delivery, and hospital stay. They are angels. Literal angels, I tell you. I've never been more impressed by a group of human beings in my whole life. I felt like they cared for me personally, as if I were the only woman on the floor giving birth that day, which I most decidedly was not. I still remember the names of the nurses who cared for me. I'm not exaggerating, I truly do {Susan, Ashley, Nancy, Christy. See?}. I know I wouldn't have made it through labor, delivery, and those first two nights trying to breastfeed a newborn without them. 

After registering, getting into the hospital gown, donning a blood pressure cuff, IV, and heart monitor for Maylin, I started receiving a Pitocin drip at about 7:30 AM. For the first hour, I felt nothing, not the slightest contraction or discomfort. I could see my contractions on the monitor set up by the bed, but they were so faint that I couldn't feel them. During this time, Michael and I relaxed, answered texts from well-wishers, and in general just stared at each other with goofy grins on our faces {which were soon to be erased by labor...Oh what newbs we were}. One thing I enjoyed was hearing Maylin's heart beat on the monitor. It was really neat and strangely comforting to hear her heart beating its steady staccato throughout the room.

My and Michael's parents came in to visit for a few minutes, but I really wanted the delivery room to be private, so they didn't stay long. By 9:30 my contractions were stronger, enough that I had to concentrate to relax, and I had dilated to 2 cm. I remember my nurse saying she could feel Maylin's head when she checked me, which I found incredible because I had no idea babies got that low in the birth canal before the pushing phase of labor started. There were lots of things I learned that day. Michael too. We were both very educated by the end of the day.

My nurse increased the Pitocin drip every 30 minutes, so my contractions got increasingly stronger and closer together. At 10:30 I was dilated 3 cm, and my nurse broke my water. I have to note this was the strangest, most disconcerting, and embarrassing sensation I've ever felt. There's really no way to describe it other than you feel as if you're uncontrollably using the bathroom on yourself. I was also surprised and shocked at how much water came out in that initial flow. Like, so much water. This continued with every contraction I had, as if my body were really working to get everything baby related OUT {quickly, please and thank you}. 

It was at this point my contractions really increased in difficulty and the pain level shot up. I also started dilating very quickly after this. By 11:00 I'd dilated to 4 cm. The most comfortable position for me was on my hands and knees with my belly swaying toward the floor, but my nurse didn't like that position very much and in no uncertain terms told me to lie back down on the bed. {This is really the only complaint I have with my labor/delivery experience in the hospital; I really wish I could've labored in the position that was most comfortable for me rather than having to lie on the bed.} I ended up lying on my side, eating ice chips and squeezing M's hand during each contraction. By 11:30 the contractions were pretty intense, and I'd dilated to almost 5 cm.

At 12:00 I decided to get an epidural. I'd waited it out as long as I could considering I was on the Pitocin drip. I have high aspirations of one day going all the way with no pain meds, but Pitocin is pretty brutal, so I'll save that for a time when I'm not induced. The epidural was pretty uneventful. I sat on the edge of the bed and leaned into Michael and my nurse while the anesthesiologist applied the medication. I could still feel the contractions, even after the epidural, which I was thankful for because I wanted to have an active role in my labor rather than just letting medicine do all the work. They weren't nearly as painful,  just persistent.

The most difficult and instense time of labor for me was between 6 and 9 cm. During this time my blood pressure kept dropping, leaving me nauseated and light-headed. I kept my hospital bed elevated so that I was sitting almost straight up and down. This was the only position comfortable enough for me. Every time I tried to lie back, my blood pressure dropped even lower. I also experienced severe shaking and chills, which I've read is common for the transition stage because the body is progressing very fast and very significantly. Maylin's heart rate also dropped during this time, not to a rate that was alarming to our nurse, but we monitored it carefully for the remainder of labor. Much of this time period is a blur to me, mainly because I didn't feel as good as during the early part of labor. 

My body regulated to dilating about a centimeter an hour after getting the epidural. By 3:00 PM I was at 9 cm, and at 3:30 I'd reached 10 cm. When my nurse checked me the last time, she got a little smile on her face, looked at me, and said, "Are you ready to meet your baby?" From that point on I was holding back tears as stubbornly as I could because I didn't want my emotions to rob me of the strength to push. In reality, all I wanted to do was curl up in a little ball and cry my eyes out over relief of the whole ordeal being over and Maylin being in my arms. But I knew if I wanted to push Maylin out myself and not end up on the operating table I had to hold it together and concentrate all of my energy on pushing. 

My nurse pressed a little button on the wall and my room became a flurry of immediate activity as they readied the space for delivery. A nursery nurse wheeled a portable station into the room so she could test Maylin's Apgar score and clean her right there in the room with me. Another nurse brought in what looked to me a surgical table on wheels with all sorts of medical instruments laid out on top. My nurse called my doctor {who had been checking on me periodically throughout the day}, and began to "suit up" for the delivery. What this means is she pretty much dressed herself for full out surgery, or that's what it looked like to me. Surgical gown, surgical cap, surgical gloves, surgical mask, then bada-bing, bada-bang, my feet were in stirrups, my bed was wheeled under spotlights that magically appeared from the ceiling, and she was sitting between my legs telling me to push. 

At this point, it was impossible for me not to push, my body was so ready for Maylin to come out. I waited for each contraction, gripped the bed railing with all my strength, and pushed. It wasn't too taxing at first becasue of the adrenaline surge that was cued by the words "are you ready to meet your baby." But after a while it was exhausting. My doctor came in soon after to take over the delivery and my nurse moved to my side. Michael hovered between holding my hand and leaning over my head to standing down by the doctor so he could witness the birth. I asked for a mirror so I could see the progress of Maylin down the birth canal. It also helped me time my pushes with the contractions. And, let's be honest, I didn't want to miss out on the miracle of watching Maylin enter our world, especially if Michael was getting to see it. I wanted to see it too. 

My nurse was so encouraging during this time. Between contractions she would stare me in the eyes and firmly tell me what a good job I was doing, that I was strong, that the baby was going to be here any minute, "Here comes the next contraction, are you ready? okay PUSH, 10, 9, 8, Push Jana push, 6, 5, 4, almost there hang in there, 2, 1... okay relax. That was perfect, we're going to do it again just like that, you're doing so good at this..." and so forth. My strength really started to wane after about 20 minutes of pushing and once again I could feel the onslaught of tears right beneath the surface ready to take over. I glanced at Michael and started to say weakly, "I can't..." but before I could utter another syllable my nurse gripped me by the shoulders and said very firmly and confidently, "Yes you can. Yes you can Jana. You're doing it right now. We're going to get this baby out. You are strong. You are going to do this. Do not even think the word can't." I nodded obediently and shored up my tears once more, pushing them below the surface of my emotions and concentrated fully on each contraction so I could push with all my strength.

It became apparent after a while of pushing that Maylin was getting hung up in the birth canal. She was far enough down that we could see her head, but with every push she'd stop at the same spot, never coming any further. After some investigation, my doctor saw that she had her fist up next to her cheek, which was making it more difficult for her to proceed down the birth canal. This shouldn't have come as a surprise to me because she always had her fist near her face in ultrasound pictures. My doctor asked if we were opposed to using a vacuum. While I wasn't thrilled about the idea, I was even less thrilled about not being able to push Maylin out. We had very little time to consider this because the next contraction was right there.

Nurse: "It's time to push, let's go" {as if I needed to be told, pushing was uncontrollable at this point} PUSH 10, 9, 8, 7...
Doctor: pushpushpushpushpush {in a calming, low, persistent tone}
Michael: "You can do it, babe, she's right there, she's almost out, there's our Maylin right there, you're doing it"
All while I was bearing down with everything I had and my nurse pushed on the top of my stomach to give Maylin an extra umph to get out.

And suddenly, there she was. Maylin Sidney. Out of my body in my doctor's hands, covered in white mucus and a little bit of blood, screaming her lungs out and flailing her little arms. Relief, from the pressure of the contractions and the stress of pushing, was immediate. I could finally cry. And cry I did, hard and unstopping for the next hour. I cried as I watched Michael cut the umbilical cord. I cried when they laid her on top of me and I held her the first time. I cried as they cleaned her up and stitched me up. I was still crying when they gave her back to me in a clean blanket and tiny knit cap. Oh how I cried. I cried for relief; I cried for joy; I cried for thankfulness; I cried for exhaustion; I cried because my first pregnancy was over, and I cried because the pregnancy was OVER. The gamut of emotions ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other.

I cried because we made it, the three of us, the start of our little family. Our baby girl was here. The waiting was over. She was ours.

I'd always wondered how love for my children would begin. Would it gradually swell over time as I got to know my baby? Would it be immediate? Would I feel something or nothing when I first held her? I've heard it differs from person to person, but for me, my love for her was full and complete from the moment I saw her out of my body. Her face was familiar, her cry was recognizable. It was if I had known her in my subconscious all my life, and it was only now that I was remembering her. It felt a little like remembering a dream from the night before in perfect clarity during the day. An, "oh yeah, I remember now" moment. It felt as she had been with me all along.

There are moments in my life I can look back and say, "My life started there." When I believed in Jesus, for example. The night Michael told me he loved me. The day I said "I do" to living life with my man. Each phase seems like it's going to be the best one, that life is saturated with fullness and for it to get any better life would have to become a dream, a fantasy. At 4:29 PM on March 28, 2013, my life began again. It became more deeply hued with the colors of love, tenderness, thankfulness, smearing on top of colors that already existed, turning my life yet again into a masterpiece almost too beautiful to look at.

Even today, a year later, I get chills when I think about the day of Maylin's birth. The excitement, adrenaline, {small amount of} fear, anticipation, the sharing of a dream with Michael, and the mutual experience of birthing our first daughter. That day will never be forgotten. 


  1. Jana, you describe Maylin's birth in such beautiful detail! Thank you for sharing. In a few short months you get to experience that whirlwind of emotions that only giving birth can evoke, when you get to meet Hartlie! Beautifully written!

  2. So sweet! I love this! =)