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A Birth Story: Adelaide Noele

I’m sitting down to write this almost a month later. And it is amazing to me how much of the hardship and struggle of it has already started to fade. It was painful and hard, but my memories of the day are calm and beautiful. The story is long and the pictures are sparse (the last shot at the bottom is my very favorite), but it is important to me to have it all here. It isn’t a day I’d be excited to relive, but how glad I am that it happened (and glad that it was so different from Lincoln’s birth day). 

It was 6:43 and I could hear Lincoln and my mother eating breakfast in the kitchen. He would be eating with a fork and spoon before she left next month.

At 6:48 there was another one, and so I dismissed the contractions entirely. They couldn’t be real ones if they were this close together at the beginning — more Braxton icks and another day of waiting.

I waddled out to breakfast and poured myself some granola, not bothering to mention the contractions. At four days past my due date, I’d felt like the boy who cried wolf for a week now.

There were more during breakfast, and it was more comfortable to eat on my exercise ball than on a chair. They were getting stronger, quite uncomfortable now. I thought back to all the stories of friends who labored for hours at home, packing hospital bags between contractions or trying to catch some sleep. So, I hopped in the shower, with grand plans to blow dry my hair, double check my bag, and make sure everything was ready. I called Ben, who was just getting to work at this point, to put him on alert.

I called the hospital when I got out of the shower, confused at the growing intensity of these regular contractions. When did I need to go in again? When they’re too painful to talk through, right? Well, the nurse on the OB floor told me, “We can’t give you any medical advice” and told me to call my doctor. The place where I’m going to deliver my baby can’t give me any medical advice? The contraction that hit in the middle of the call was so intense that I just hung up on her.. It was seven minutes to eight at this point so I needed to call the after hours line. My doctor said it was a good idea to head to the hospital, but OK’d waiting until Ben drove the 35 minutes home to pick me up. Worst part of my plan. 

In those 35 minutes I managed to get my wet hair up and some clothes on (although I had a zip up jacket over a sports bra because somehow I couldn’t handle a shirt?). I also managed not to yell at Lincoln who thought I was bouncing on the exercise ball for fun and wanted to join me. I’m pretty sure I did yell at Ben while loading my car with hospital bags (and he was still at good 15 minutes away at this point and couldn’t hear me). I almost just got in the car and drove myself.

The car was set and the garage door open when Ben pulled in and I gave him twenty seconds to grab whatever he needed. I also encouraged the running of red lights, screamed through sharp turns, and almost broke his fingers with my grip on the ten minute drive to the hospital.

I was the crazy lady squatting and holding the walls of the hospital on our way up to the OB floor but my doctor must have called because when I walked in they were expecting me. A kind nurse showed me to my room (which was down a long hall that required at least one contraction break). Once in the room, I sat for an exam and blood draw so they could run labs and get my antibiotics started right away. I was dilated to a seven and I’m sure the first thing out of my mouth once in that room was if I could have an epidural as soon as possible. I also have a vague recollection of asking the nurse to run when she said she was going to check on my labs (which they needed before they could give me the blessed epidural).

Through all this my contractions were getting stronger and closer and I was getting increasingly bipolar. During the contractions I was short, rude, and intollerant of just about anything. Once the contraction stopped I would apologize, make small talk, and go back to smiling. At one point a nurse was trying to put some band around my belly (in the middle of a contraction). I tried pushing her off when she explained she needed to find the baby’s heart beat. I responded with some variation of, “Women have been giving birth on their own for thousands of years! The baby is just trying to get out.” I promptly apologized when the pain had subsided.

Ben was on my right and luckily survived the day without any broken fingers.

In my preparation for an unmedicated birth (which I didn’t have) with Lincoln, I had practiced visualization and relaxtion techniques to cope with contractions. This time around I hadn’t given them much thought, but about half an hour into my time at the hospital I started using them. The difference was disctinct. The pain was still there, but I felt quite a bit more in control. I worked on relaxing my body through a contraction and would labor through each, biting a wash cloth, while listening to Ben count slowly until it was over. There were no more screams, or tears, or cries of desperation, but I was still anxiously awaiting that epidural.

The worst part of my morning walked in about 20 minutes later, after my IV of fluids and antibiotics had been started and the contractions were worse. The first thing I remember were his warnings, which sounded like taunts, that epidurals only worked 80% of the time. It was possible it wouldn’t work at all for me. And then there was the threat that if I kept progressing this fast he wouldn’t be able to give me an epidural (as if I had control over that). Finally he sat down on the couch to begin the paperwork (a process that should be changed – labor is the worst time to fill out paperwork).

Sometime before the paperwork and after the threats, I told Ben that if the epidural didn’t work, I wasn’t having anymore children (reminiscent of my mother who turned to my dad, right after I was born, and said it looked like they were only having one child, because she was never doing that again). 

The epdiural man’s first comment after sitting down was to the nurses, asking that I be covered up (I’m laboring in a sports bra at this point and sweating). The kind nurse explained I’d declined the blankets because I was uncomfortable and warm. His response? A terse, “I insist.” The pregnant lady almost lost it. He insists? HE insists? The man sitting there in no pain, whose DAILY JOB it is to administer epdirauls to women in labor? He insists on a blanket? I had many words for him, but I couldn’t talk in the height of a contraction, and then I remembered he was the one with the power. He was the one deciding whether or not I could have an epidural, and as frustrating as he may be, I needed to at least be civil, just in case that effected my chances (sound logic, I know – but I was a little out of it). Finally after a brief argument I interrupted to tell Ben to stand between us with a sheet — but that under no circumstances was anyone to put anything on top of me. *

*I found out when telling this story a few weeks later that Ben had responded to the epidural man’s “insistence” with a “REALLY? That seems ridiculous,” to which the man stumbled, “oh it is for her.” Ben pointed out I had already requested not to be covered up and the man weakly added, “but still.” You can bet my follow-up hospital survey included a lengthy paragraph about epidural man (which is sad because the first time around, the man who administered the epidural was one of our very favorites).

The second worst part of the morning came a bit later when I had to reposition to have the epidural administered and they told Ben to leave the room. No amount of pleading on my part would change anyone’s mind (a new policy to prevent fainting spouses from causing damage) and thank goodness for a motherly nurse who let me almost break her fingers as she counted through contractions with me instead. 
And then the epidural was in. I was dilated to an 8. Ben came back. I had about two hours of nausea and back pain. Baby girl kept working her way down. We snuck pretzels and granola bars whenever the nurses were out of the room. 
When my doctor arrived at about noon and it came time to push, I was feeling so sick and so out of breath. I was convinced any amount of exertion was going to make me throw up and I couldn’t muster enough breath to push properly. After a few minutes of frustrated coaching from my doctor and nurses, I managed to scrunch my face up to make it look like I was pushing. A few fake pushes, and two real ones later, I had a crying, blue baby on my chest, pooping all over both of us.

I still remember the remarkable feeling of her sliding out on the final push. All the pressure on my lungs released and I could breathe again.
There was meconium everywhere. It was in her hair and her nose. It was dark and green and scary. I went into a panic (a still and silent panic). Meconium was bad. Meconium could mean lots of horrible things. And no one was saying anything. Everyone was calm and I was lying there, with this baby on top of me, trying to hold back scared tears. Babies die when Meconium gets aspirated and there it was, in her nose. 
Turns out, she was fine. No one other than me was very worried about it. We got her cleaned up a bit while enjoying some skin to skin and we had our first nursing session. It was hard not to compare everything to Lincoln’s birth 17 months earlier, in what might have been the very same room. Her cries were less intimidating to me, her funny looking head and wrinkly body much more endearing. We lied there for an hour or two like that, before they took her across the room to be dressed and measured (in a machine that beeped incessantly for the twenty minutes before they came in). I broke down in tears at least every fifteen minutes for the first two hours. For no reason. Or for every reason. Hormones are real. 
That evening I sent Ben home to put Lincoln to bed and give my mom a chance to come to the hospital. I cleaned up a bit, met with lactation consultants, and held our nameless baby girl. I ordered dinner, but it wasn’t until it arrived that I remembered I’d gotten the stir-fry for my first meal after Lincoln too. I didn’t like it the second time either. Ben showed up around 9 with takeout from Texas Roadhouse (because when your daughter is born on your husband’s birthday, he at least gets to pick the takeout). It was much better than the Chinese I picked out after Lincoln was born. We enjoyed rolls and salmon and steak on the couch while baby girl slept. We talked about names and Lincoln and how much better birth was the second time around.

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  1. Aw, I love that this time around was better for you. As I gear up for my second time around (19 days, give or take), I can't help but get so anxious and nervous as my first birth was AMAZING. I'm so nervous this time around won't be.

  2. You're such a good writer, Elisabeth! Glad this experience was mostly better than the last, even if it is still no fun.

  3. The epidural is a blessing, but that epidural man does not sound very awesome. When I got mine with Bensen, I was sitting cross legged on the bed with my head down, Joe was sitting on a chair in front of me holding my hands and the epidural guy was behind me. He had Joe sit in front of me where he couldn't see anything but could still be with me for that fainting reason, you should suggest that next time 😉

  4. I just sat at my desk and cried tears of joy for u reading this beautiful story. I don't have my own yet..but cannot wait for it. I hope I remember the details. How lucky you are to have this outlet to always re-read the wonderful story of your life;) have a great day. gg

  5. What a beautiful story. The anesthesiologist sounds like a jerk, but I'm glad that everything else seemed to go smoothly. Out of my three children, my favorite anesthesiologist was the one from our middle child. He looked like the Asian doctor from Knocked Up and we giggled every time he left the room. Congratulations on your sweet girl! She is precious.

  6. HE insisted? That's like…you're just a silly woman in a natural pain and he's the man who knows what's what and does this everyday in 1950, err, I mean 2016.

  7. Wow, your birth story seemed so intense, I was hanging on to each word as I read this. Adelaide is beautiful. The nerve of the epidural man! I closed my eyes and paused as I read this, trying to calm down my own anger. ha!


  8. Oh my goodness Elisabeth! I would have murdered that epidural man!! I'm glad it all ended up working out okay and you now have the cutest little baby. Congrats mama!