Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ada's birth story

I wrote this three weeks after Ada was born. I knew that the further I got from the day my daughter was born, the harder it would be to retain every detail, so I am glad I wrote this when it was still fresh. Ada's first birthday seems like a good time to share it. As a bit of background, our close friend Ellen (a midwife in a hospital-based practice) was our doula. Chris and Ellen were incredible supports. I feel so lucky that they were there with me at home and in the hospital.

Day One

Year One

Dear Ada:

Your dad wants me to write down your birth story. He’s even brought over a bowl of marionberries we got at the farmer’s market this morning. You were there too, but you were sleeping while we walked around, so you are forgiven for not remembering what happened today, much less what happened before you were born.

Sunday, June 26: Your due date was July 9, two weeks away. The “plan” was that I’d work one more week, then sit around fat and pregnant for another week or more waiting for labor. Sunday morning I went to my prenatal yoga class. I came home and had lunch and tried to finish the reading for my book club that was meeting later that afternoon. I had about 70 pages left, and had gotten through 50 by 2:30 when I stopped to take a shower. Getting out of the shower I had my first contraction.

Everything I’d read and heard indicated that “early labor” could go on for a long time. This was the time to relax, eat, etc – generally not get too excited that labor was starting. Your dad was in your room painting your dresser red. I poked my head in to say that I’d had a contraction, but was sure it wasn’t anything. I left the house to get snacks for book club. After buying snacks I sat in the Trader Joe's parking lot reading the last 15 pages of the book while it poured. At 4pm I drove up the hill to Laura’s house. I had a few contractions while at the book club. At some point Ellen called my cell and I told her that I’d felt some contractions, maybe one an hour. She was excited but definitely not thinking that I was in active anything at that point. We agreed to meet for dinner at our house.

At 6pm I had a big contraction just as I was getting ready to leave Laura’s. I was on her porch but had to run back inside to her bathroom to get through the wave of pain. When the contraction subsided I drove home. Ellen and Jiro were at our house and we got a pizza for dinner. I started having contractions more frequently – I was timing them at about 10-15 minutes apart, maybe 30-60 seconds long. I could only stomach one slice, but was fine to hang out while we read magazines and chatted. Ellen and Jiro left around 8 (Dad thinks it was later) and I found myself wanting to be in the bathroom more and more. The contractions were coming more quickly and were fairly intense. Soon I was in near constant pain. I started to get worried about the intensity of what I was thinking was still early labor. If this was “early”, what would it be like when it was “active”? Where were the rest periods I was promised?

Starting some time between 8 and 9 pm I felt fairly constant pain with spikes of intensity at each contraction. I was pacing the floor, stopping to grip the counter and moan. Chris tried to soothe me but I was uncomfortable and cranky. I remember thinking that if I was this hard on him now, what would it be like when things really got intense?

The books I'd read all talked about resting between contractions, that the laboring woman could lie even down. A couple of times I tried to get on the bed, but the pain somehow felt worse that way and I quickly got up again. Chris asked if I wanted Ellen to come over, which I did. Before she arrived, my mucus plug came out (and soon after my water broke, though I wasn’t sure at the time if that had happened – there was no gush of water that would have made it obvious).

During contractions I closed my eyes and used the walls for support. Whenever I got up, thinking another position might help, I quickly decided to return to sitting. Chris was at my feet while I sat, and got up to rub my back when I tried to stand or lean on the bathroom counter. I felt bad that I was making him get up, sit down, get up… I said something to this effect, but he was not concerned. I don’t know when, but remember that he kissed me and told me he loved me.

Ellen showed up and instructed Chris to put his hand on my legs when I was sitting. The two of them tried to soothe me and I remember feeling both very apart from them in my pain and very happy that they were both there with me. Ellen said that Polly was on call at the hospital, with Penny on after her. She said that we’d be in good hands if my baby wanted to show up any time in the next day.

My sense of time is pretty hazy, but at about 10:30 Ellen went to another midwife’s house to get a sterile kit so that she could check my progress. When she returned a bit before 11, I had already started pushing. Ellen had Chris support me while I sat back on the bed. My knees were up and he was propping my back up while she checked my dilation. Ellen looked up at Chris with only semi-disguised alarm as she said I was fully dilated. She said it might be time for a change of plans; we could have the baby at home or we could go to the hospital immediately, but that I’d have to stop pushing if I wanted to make it to OHSU. She said it would be ok to have the birth at home; she would call Linda and we could do it right here. I considered that for a moment but decided I wanted to go ahead with a hospital birth.

I’d put a few clothes together when I had my first contraction that afternoon, but we hadn’t packed a bag. I gave Chris a few instructions about what to pack, I put some pants and shoes on and we were out the door. My body really wanted me to start pushing, but I held back as much as I could. We drove across the river and through downtown. The lights are timed on SW Broadway, which was a bit infuriating. I knew that there was no point driving more than 30 between lights, but found myself wishing we could just blow through the lights and get to the hospital already. I gripped the seat and clenched every muscle to keep from pushing. I think this is maybe when I made a joke about how I was glad we'd chosen June instead of May for your middle name. If you'd been named for my grandmother you might have shown up even earlier.

Finally we got to the hill leading up to the hospital; what was I thinking using such an inconveniently located hospital? What genius thought it was a good idea to put the hospital on a hilltop? At the top of the hill we found ourselves behind a car that was moseying along as the driver tried to figure out what lot to pull into. I wanted to scream “pregnant lady, out of the way”, but held back and we made it to the Emergency Room door.

Ellen and I headed inside while Chris parked the car. She plopped me in a wheelchair and, armed with her hospital ID badge, headed for the elevator to the main hospital. I felt giddy and dizzy as she zoomed down the hallway, in and out of the elevator, and through the doors to the labor and delivery unit. I felt very short, sitting in the chair, but then we were in the room and I was heading for the bed. The nurse – someone Ellen knew and seemed happy to see – asked me if I had a nightgown or wanted a gown. I growled something about not having anything and not caring as I pulled off my clothes and tossed them in the chair next to the bed. Polly arrived and told me to get up on the bed. I got up and was facing the wall, gripping the back of the bed, which was raised up into an L.

I labored for a few minutes (?) until Chris arrived. I turned to see him in the entrance to the room and was flooded with happiness at his arrival. He came to my bedside. Ellen was on the other side, with Polly at my feet. Polly suggested I turn on my side, and from that moment I don’t think I let go of Chris until you were born. Polly was telling me that I was doing fine, that the head was crowning. Did I want to a mirror to see your head? I couldn’t focus on anything other than the feeling of your head coming out, so I said no. I was focused on getting you out, but now that my body was not commanding me to push, it was a lot more work to keep pushing on my own. I felt your head, with the skin soft on your skull.

Polly told me that the head was almost halfway out. I could not imagine that I had to open more, that your head wasn’t already halfway there. I tried to say this, but only managed “I can’t”. Polly told me I could and I kept pushing, though it felt like it was slow work to get that final progress. Polly told me that in 3 more pushes you would come out. It was more than that, but finally your head pushed through and with great relief I heard that we were almost there. A little more work to get your shoulders through. Again it felt hard to summon the required push, but then Polly was instructing Chris and me to put our hands down to grab you as you popped out at 12:02 am on June 27. We put you on my chest and Polly and the nurse came over with blankets from the warmer to put all around you.

You were tiny and wet, alert and hungry. I don’t remember you crying much, but when we listened to the recordings Ellen left on our phone of the moments after your birth, they are filled with your cries. When I put you to my nipple you started to suck immediately. (A clear sign you were brilliant!) Chris held you too, holding your tiny body to his chest.

The placenta came out and a fascinated Polly showed us that it was heart-shaped. Ellen put the placenta in a bag, so that we could freeze it in order to later plant it under a tree. We called your grandparents in LA and Keizer, and left a message for Karen. After an hour we finally let you go across the room to get weighed before we all went upstairs to the Mother/Baby unit. I felt elated, tired, excited and worn. You are sleeping in my lap now as I type this. I am amazed by all your faces, the little and big noises you make at three weeks, the way your soft skin feels and how strong your grip already is. I love you.


  1. Awesome. But not great to read when I'm feeling particularly weepy :)

    I know you guys went through a lot to have her - enjoy this great day!!

  2. What an amazing post! Ada is so beautiful!!!!! I dont know waht it is.. all birth stories make me tear..
    Have a WONDERFUl day!

    {{{Hugs}}}for Ada!!!!

  3. Beautiful! Happy Birthday Miss Ada!

  4. How I love birth stories - I was so excited when the title of this post came up! This story was especially suspenseful; I could see from the photo that you had a hospital birth, but when you got to the part where the contractions were coming one on top of the other, I couldn't figure out how you did it. I cannot IMAGINE what that car ride was like!

  5. Those first two picturs made my heart clench.

    What a beautiful, beautiful story. Thank you.

    And happiest of birthdays!

  6. Ah yes, the car ride.

    N. was great, focusing on not pushing, and I did ok until we got over the Morrison bridge. Once downtown, I started driving faster and faster until E. in the backseat calmly put her hand on my shoulder to remind me to slow down. We did that three or four times. It wasn't until we were through downtown and on our way up the hill that N. started asking if we were there yet. Of course, Mr. Pokey ahead of us wasn't helping to keep us calm.

    I'm just glad that it was late on a Sunday night, otherwise driving through downtown Portland would have been much worse.

  7. Happy birthday beautiful Ada! You made quite the entrance into this world.

    A beautiful moment in time that was told so lovingly.

  8. With only 10 days left to b-day, in theory, much food for thought for me here. I appreciate how you wrote this all down for us before you even blogged! you are the soul of consideration.

    My first delivery was not dissimilar and I am hoping for another uncomplicated birth... your story reminds me of what that looks like and also lightens my heart with the lovely memory of how mother and Dad work together to make this happen. thank-you

    Happy birthday to the Ada girl, too.

  9. Happy Birthday to Ada!

    This is such a beautiful story. I'm all weepy too.

  10. Happy Birthday to Ada. I love reading birth stories especially uncomplicated ones. I had a similar birth with both of my girls. Such a beautifully told tale.

  11. Happy birthday Miss. A! A very well told story indeed. Thank you for sharing.

  12. happy birthday sweet ada, and happy birthaversary nonlinear girl! thanks for sharing your story -- you're a strong chiquita to go thru all that labor sitting in your house. my oh my!