Neville’s Birth Story
Posted on March 4, 2014
Today, my baby is four weeks old, and I’m ready to post the story of his birth.
There are a few reasons to blog this story. One: I need to write it down somewhere so that it’s documented for my own sake. Two: I have a handful of friends who might actually be curious about Neville’s birth story, even though it’s not terribly exciting or dramatic. Three: The meme of birth stories being told on blogs is one I’m willing to join, even though it doesn’t exactly fit my typical blog content or themes. Four: I posted Ruthie’s birth story four years ago on my old blog (and will re-publish it this week in conjunction with Neville’s), and it only seems fair to make sure Ruthie’s baby brother receives fair treatment. Five: I thought it might be reassuring to some folks who are anxious about delivering a second baby after a rough first delivery, being induced, or experiencing vacuum-assisted birth.
And so, here is the story of Neville’s arrival:
Forty weeks pregnant is hard. Beyond forty weeks? It’s a nightmare. I know that due dates are estimations, and that it’s not uncommon for women to go close to forty-two weeks, but as I waddled from place to place, finished my pre-maternity leave work, signed and groaned every time I stood or sat or moved, cried out in pain every time my back hurt me (which was pretty much all day), muffled profanities every time I had to get in and out of the car, struggled to wrangle my four-year-old, and dealt with heartburn, soreness, sleeplessness, and a bladder that required me to pee every hour (even all through the night), I was ready. Ready to stop being pregnant and start finally hold my baby.
I went into labor at 40 weeks, 3 days with Ruthie, and she was born at 40 weeks, 4 days. I thought that surely I would go into labor at least a day or two earlier than I did with her. I mean, that’s what happens, right? Second pregnancies are a little bit shorter than first? I wasn’t so lucky. At 40 weeks, 3 days, nothing had happened. I’d been having irregular contractions for two weeks, but nothing else.
40 weeks, 4 days, and I went in for an appointment in the afternoon. Ruthie went to spend the day with her Aunt Sara, and Chalupa came with me to my appointment. For a number of fairly boring but authentic reasons, my doctor, Dr. T, wanted to go ahead with an induction. Remembering back to the conversation I had with my nurse midwife as she examined my calcified placenta after Ruthie was born, I thought that sounded like a great idea. “Come back tonight at six,” she said, “and we’ll get things started.”
What to do between 2 and 6 when you’re already off work, your kid is napping at her aunt’s, the temperature is below zero, and you’re going to have a baby in the next 24-ish hours? To the movies!
The only thing on at the right time was Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which was an entertaining by mostly forgettable flick–nothing we would have normally chosen to see at the theater, especially during Oscar season. The whole time, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that I was finally about to have this baby. Knowing that I never plan on going through this again, I tried to concentrate on the single good thing about being pregnant: feeling the baby moving around and knowing that he’s right there, safe and secure and content. After the credits, I waddled out of the theater and crossed the icy mall parking lot to meet my sister, her family, my mom, and Ruthie for an early dinner at Fazoli’s.
When it was time to go, Ruthie didn’t want me to leave. My girl is usually quite happy to give me a hug and a kiss goodbye if it means spending the night with Grandma Carol, but that evening, she clung to me and begged me not to leave. I think she knew just how much our lives were about to change. How terribly sad it was to leave for my appointment at the hospital with reaching out for me from Grandma’s arms, crying, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave! Don’t leave!”
Little girl knows how to break her mom’s heart.
Neville would not be born for more than twenty-four hours after I checked in. First, I got settled in our room at the small, independent hospital where I’d decided to have the baby. It’s a good thirty miles from home, and not as close as the local hospital, but my sister’s labor experiences there were wonderful, and that’s where I could see Dr. T, my own doctor who earned my trust and respect when she helped me through my miscarriage in 2012.
For twelve hours, I was on Cervidil, hoping that it would jumpstart labor. I spent the night struggling to get to and from the bathroom, so uncomfortable from the weight of pregnancy and my newly acquired IV that I could barely stand it. I hardly slept. Chalupa got rest on the pull-out couch beside me. I wasn’t lucky enough to have made much progress through the night, and although I experienced continued irregular contractions, I was not very far along come Tuesday morning. Dr. T. decided I should start on Pitocin.
I’ve heard some terrible stories about the painful side effects of a Pitocin-triggered labor, but I was willing to move forward. As it turned out, my Pitocin drip didn’t last very long anyway.
Less than two hours after it got started, they had turned it off. The baby’s heart rate kept dropping with every contraction, and Dr. T. didn’t like the look of his recovery patterns. She came in to check on me and made me laugh when she said, “Oh, it’s probably nothing. Probably just your ratty old placenta.”
Gotta love a doctor who’s willing to tell you that you have a ratty old placenta. (Have I mentioned loving my doctor? She’s the same one who, after I kept putting off my third trimester glucose test, finally just told me, “Whatever, it’s not that important anyway.”)
The good news: just that short period on Pitocin and things got started on their own. My contractions became more regular and more intense, although still irregular. At 2:30 in the afternoon, Dr. T. came in with some towels and something in a long wrapped package. “You’re going to break my water, aren’t you?”
“Yep!” she said. And then she did so, which was uncomfortable and a little weird, but effective. I needed my epidural almost immediately.
Now, the epidural is the thing that went wrong with my first delivery. Well, one of the things. (The other thing was the way she did a football spiral on her way out, leading to terrible tearing that refused to heal.) I explained to the nurse anesthetist that when I delivered Ruthie, the epidural came out without anyone realizing it, and I delivered without any drugs–totally unaware of that fact. Surely that kind of thing couldn’t repeat itself, right? She said such a thing was highly unlikely.
Interestingly, the nurse anesthetist found that it was quite difficult to place the epidural needle in my back. “Have you ever had a back injury?” she asked. No, just lots of back pain over the years. “Did you play sports?” No, not unless you count sixth grade basketball. B-team. “Your vertebrae are extremely close together. They seem like the vertebrae of someone who has experienced some sort of back injury.”
Having the epidural placed was by far the most painful and most difficult part of labor. I buried my face in my nurse’s neck and followed her instructions as I breathed and held her hands and held still. Finally, after failing once and starting over from scratch, the anesthetist had the epidural in place. Sweet, sweet relief.
My mom, who manages the hospital gift shop, came up with Ruthie that afternoon to see how things were coming along. Ruthie was fascinated (and a bit concerned) by my IV and hospital gown, but mostly she just wanted me to play with her LeapPad with her. As a snowstorm outside got worse and worse, we began to hear nurses and doctors talking about how they weren’t going to be able to go home that night after their shifts. Mom decided it was time to leave. I didn’t want her stuck in the snow somewhere between the hospital and home. Plus, it seemed like it could still be a long time before Neville’s arrival.
I asked Chalupa to order dinner from room service before they closed down so that when Neville finally arrived, I’d be able to eat something. (Worst thing about labor: the doctor’s instructions not to eat anything. Biggest secret I’ve been keeping: I totally sneaked an orange mid-afternoon because I was STARVING.)
I texted my sister Karen at 7:30 in the evening and said, “I hope he’s born by midnight.”
The epidural had blocked much of the discomfort, although the contractions between 7:30 and 8 were definitely causing a lot of pain for me. I was also shaking with terrible tremors, and I was pretty sure I might throw up. Because Neville’s heart rate continued to drop with every contraction, the nurses decided to put me on Oxygen. The Oxygen wasn’t for me, but for the baby. “Take deep, steady breaths,” they said. “The more Oxygen you get, the more he gets.” I tried my best. Trembling and clutching a vomit bucket, I answered the nurses’ questions as best as I could. They decided to see how far along I was, and to their surprise and mine, it was time to call Dr. T.
“You’re going to be able to push this baby right out. He’s ready,” my nurse said at 8 in the evening.
“Are you sure?” I asked. With Ruthie, I had pushed for nearly two hours. I had cried and shouted during that delivery, begging to know how much longer it was going to last. “Are you sure it’s going to go quickly?”
“I think so,” she said reassuringly. “You’re ready.”
Dr. T. arrived, and it was time.
I pushed for just fifteen minutes. Every push felt effective and productive. How strange that with a successful epidural, I felt like I was in control of my labor and able to productively push, as opposed to my failed epidural–my totally natural delivery–in which I felt overwhelmed and unable to do the job. Medicine, when administered correctly, is a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Neville’s heart rate continued to drop, and the peaks and valleys of his monitor were getting more and more dramatic. Dr. T. asked for a vacuum to assist in the delivery. She quickly explained the process and the risks, and I said go for it. Just before my last two rounds of pushes, she positioned the vacuum on Neville’s head, and out he came.
My warm, crying baby was suddenly there, on my chest. Among my first thoughts: He’s so small! He looks just like his sister! He has so much hair! Well, that’s a weird noise he’s making…
That noise was the grunt of a baby who was struggling a bit to breathe. It turns out that his umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck, which is what had caused his heart rate to drop with all of my contractions. However, the grunt was a signal that he needed extra suctioning and attention from having inhaled a lot of fluids during birth. I turned him over to the nurses for about for about fifteen minutes. They kept him where I could see him. Chalupa took pictures of him under the warmer while they suctioned him several times, and then he was back on my chest, snuggled against me.
He nursed, and I held him for about an hour. Then, exhausted, I handed him to his dad. It was time for me to eat my dinner.
That is how I became the mother of a baby boy.
I am so glad to say that it was a far easier delivery than I experienced with Ruthie. It was hard, and it was painful, and the total labor time was long, but the hard part was over so fast. Recovery has been infinitely easier. At eight weeks after Ruthie was born, I remember struggling to stand long enough to wash the dishes. Now, four weeks after Neville’s arrival, and I’m ordering postnatal yoga DVDs off Amazon because I cannot wait to start exercising again–and I feel ready to!
We stayed in the hospital for forty-eight hours. The morning after he was born, Chalupa had to go back to work, and Ruthie came to the hospital with my mom to meet her baby brother. She was so happy to see him and
hold him. I was so proud and full of love to see my two babies together, on my bed with me.
I was supported by excellent lactation consultants, a great nursing staff, and visits from both Dr. T. and two pleasant pediatricians.
If I didn’t have to deal with pregnancy, and I just had to go through childbirth like this again, I’d probably be willing to have more kids. As it is, pregnancy is just too hard, and I look at Ruthie and Neville knowing that these are my two babies. My sweet, snuggly babies. Look at them. So beautiful. So perfect.
One of my grad school professors used to emphasize that no one really likes to read “I’m super happy being a mother and everything is wonderful” stories because they are boring and lacking conflict. However, I can’t help but be a little boring right now. A little ordinary. A little mesmerized by two little people that no one else is ever going to think are as amazing as I do.
Today, I am okay with being boring, sentimental, and bowled over with love.
These are my children.
Thank you to my sister Karen Karki for taking these pictures of Neville on the day after he was born.