Gwendolyn Grace – and the story of her arrival

I am so proud to announce the birth of my daughter, Gwendolyn Grace. She was born Monday the 19th at 7:30 p.m. A couple weeks ago at one of my ultrasounds, the doctor estimated her weight to be 5lbs 6 oz; when I went in Monday, my doctor estimated that at the same growth rate, she would probably be somewhere around 6lbs something (still on the
small side). She’s a little peanut, weighing in at 5lbs 6 oz (how ironic is that?), 17″ long.

Mommy holding just-born Gwen

Four a.m. Monday morning, my water broke. This is one of those moments in pregnancy that you’ve wondered about, feared in some cases, because you don’t want to be out in public when it happens and you’re really not sure what to expect. Well, I was at home – so that was a relief. Thing is, I wasn’t really sure what had happened, and I didn’t want to call my doctor so early and wake her up. So… I did stuff around the house! Cleaned the kitchen, emptied the litter box, took care of some things “just in case.”

Tried to go back to bed, but couldn’t sleep. I felt very crampy, felt contractions, and couldn’t really relax. Finally, when I got up with Phil sometime after 6 a.m., I started feeling better and things died down. I went over some of the guidelines of what to do when certain things happen in your pregnancy, and decided to heed my doctor’s information sheet which said to call the office at 7 a.m. if your water breaks. So… I call, get their emergency answering system that has a live person directing calls and paging doctors; I told her the situation, and she said she would page one of the midwives. Well… no one called me back! I had an apt later in the morning anyway, to check my blood pressure and increasing weight gain (*sigh*), and decided to just keep that and see what they said.

In the labor/delivery room

My 10:30 apt rolls around, they’re all apologetic for not getting my call, and my doctor examines me. I was 3-4 cm dialated (not a huge deal, really, but further along from the previous week), my water had definitely broken, and the baby’s head was right against the cervix. I inquired as to how she thought things might progress, if I could run some errands and get things done before she thought I would go into labor. She said, “Oh, you’re going to the hospital.” I was like, “You mean, right now?” She said, “Yup – right after this, we’ll call over and say you’re coming. You’re having a baby today.” Me – “But I feel fine!” I couldn’t understand why they would send me when I wasn’t even in labor!

So… I called Phil (who was somewhat surprised, but probably glad to leave work), left a message at my mom’s, and called my sister. I told her I felt like an impostor, heading over to the hospital and traipsing in to announce “I’m here to have a baby” when I wasn’t huffing and puffing with regular contractions, actually ready to deliver at anytime. *sigh* I really wanted to wait most of the ordeal out at home, so I wouldn’t be sitting around in a hospital room. Well… you definitely can’t control these things!

All of her newborn clothes are too big for her!
This is the first outfit I put her in; she HATES to be changed!

I got admitted, had to fill out tons of paperwork, and then sat there waiting – pretty much. Every so often, the nurse would ask how I was feeling. “Fine,” I would reply. Or – “Eh, fine.” Something like that. She kept asking me, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how is your pain?” I was like, “Um… I don’t know what a 10 would feel like!” She said, “Ten is when you slam your fingers in a door and break off four fingers” or something like that. Ah – well, that has never happened to me, so… I would answer something like, “Three?” Then, “Three to four?”

After a little while of this, she informed me that my doctor wanted to administer pitocin – I was going to be induced. I was SERIOUSLY disappointed, felt myself tearing up. Isn’t this just like the rest of my pregnancy – complications, nothing going normally or as hoped/planned? I told them I would rather not, because I was familiar with all the downsides (the same doctor who suggested I get induced had told me the previous week that one of their inductions had been sent home because it didn’t work, and two others ended up having c-sections). I hemmed and hawed, and the nurse tried to explain the reasons/upshots: my water had been broken since early that morning, my cervix was already partially dialated, the baby was small and who knows if there were complications – they wanted to get things moving, and my body wasn’t cooperating on its own. FINE.

Clutching Daddy’s finger

So – I got hooked up to an IV and constant monitoring – and was pretty much confined to the bed, unless I wanted to stand beside it (which I tried – but my legs got tired not really doing anything). I was so upset about not being able to use the shower to cope with the pain, try other positions that didn’t require laying in bed, and so forth. More “on a level of 1 to 10” questions every so often, and then the nurse would up my dosage. I finally asked if they had a limit for the amount of pitocin I would receive, and she said they were looking for a specific reaction on the woman’s part. Basically, if I didn’t outwardly show that I was unhappy/in pain/etc. they would continue to up my dosage until they were satisfied. GREAT!

Pretty soon, there came a point when I was reacting more negatively to contractions, then I had to close my eyes, then I didn’t want to talk… with each turn, the nurse and/or doctor would ask “are you having a contraction now?” Apparently, the monitor wasn’t working, and my contractions weren’t even registering on the screen. It was adding insult to injury – they got their reaction, but it seemed to me my pain threshhold must be really low if it hurt that badly but didn’t even make a bleep on the screen! That discouraged me even further. Especially when they would ask about the intensity of the pain, having to tell them each time I had a contraction, hearing them say that it wasn’t registering, yadda yadda. Finally, after forever of this, I got to have an INTERNAL monitor – more goodies for my whole experience. Once in place, the next contraction was off the charts – I felt extremely redeemed, though at the time I wasn’t exactly HAPPY about it.

Peeking over Daddy’s shoulder, being burped

The whole progression blurred together, but eventually I couldn’t decipher one intensity from another – all the contractions were mind-bending seizures of pain radiating from my whole lower body. I didn’t know what to do with the pain – I tried to grab the rails, tried pressing against my legs, tried holding Phil’s hand and grabbing onto him – it was very hard to deal with. Breathing correctly was almost impossible, so out came the oxygen mask – but putting it in front of my face made me claustrophobic. I was getting so tired from the process, I seriously wanted to sleep between contractions, but they were so close together and I would anticipate the next wave of pain.

Phil was extremely supportive, telling me how well I was doing, trying to keep my humor up when that was still possible (there was one point towards the end when he joked about some previous remark, and I just shook my head and said “don’t” – I couldn’t manage much more, and he got the point), giving my ice chips since I was parched. Towards the end, I literally leaned out of bed and grabbed onto him, not knowing what else to do. Probably one of the hardest parts to deal with – besides the actual intensity and frequency of the artificially-induced contractions – was towards the end, when I wasn’t yet fully-dialated but could feel the immense pressure from the baby’s head. My midwife had told me to tell them when I felt pressure – that it would feel like I needed to go to the bathroom, and that would mean it was time to push. I could feel a gradual increase in this pressure, but all of a sudden it was RIGHT THERE; my midwife wasn’t around (Phil later told me she had stepped out for something to eat) and I had to just breathe through the sensation. It’s very hard trying to explain – you have all these different pain sensations to deal with, immense pressure, the need to push – and people telling you to “hold it.” So you have to breathe in such a way that you stop yourself until the urge passes.

Her cute outerwear on the way home from the hospital;
all her clothes are way too big!

Eventually, nearly in tears and wondering aloud how I could deal with this – I seriously thought I would pass out, how could I not pass out from the shock? – my doctor came in and said, waddya know, she can push now! Y’think? Other women say, and I have to agree, that being “allowed” to push is a huge relief after all that… you’re working with and through each contraction, focusing on doing something rather than just dealing with pain or holding it… but at the same time, it HURTS!!! Ohmigosh, I seriously thought my butt would explode with the intensity of getting that baby out! I couldn’t quite master the whole feel a contraction, take a deep breath, hold it, then push with your chin pointing down (doing so as many times as you can, taking another breath, until the contraction subsides) thing. I would breathe in and out and then push, or wouldn’t put my chin down. Luckily, I had a great support group; Mom was there along with Phil, my doctor, and a nurse, and at the end when they could all see the baby, they were cheering me on.

The head was certainly the hardest, and I now know why they call that sensation the “Ring of Fire.” Whoa, Nelly! Yowsers, I know I made some sort of exclamation at that point, but it was over with rather quickly, then came the body, and eventually the rest just slides out! But don’t forget – you’re not done with the baby! You still have to deliver the placenta… then get stitched up, because your little girl had her hand sticking up on her descent from your body and tore your insides. What fun! I was so sore from the ordeal, the last thing I wanted was someone fiddling down there – but hey, it wasn’t as bad in comparison with what I had just been through.

Daddy holding tiny Gwen

It is immensely surreal, waiting almost ten long months for this day – all the anticipation and trepidation surrounding the whole thing. And now, to be on the other side – it’s overwhelming. I look at my baby, and can’t believe she’s mine. She’s the same tiny creature that has been beating me up inside since almost month five! I can’t believe they are one and the same. I know women go through it all the time, but I can’t believe I actually went through all that and came out on the other side with a precious little baby. My experience feels sort of minimized when people exclaim over the fact that my labor (at least, counting from when I was induced) was “ONLY” six and a half hours, with about 15-20 minutes of pushing… but I am extremely proud of myself for not taking pain medication, for getting through it the way I did. I’m very curious how it would have been different with a natural progression of labor – if the gradual build-up of pain would have been more manageable, or if I would have gotten more exhausted at the longer process. I really don’t know if I could do it again – but perhaps by then I will have forgotten all about it. *grin*

Only a few days have passed, and I’m slowly getting used to a new routine. It has been very overwhelming and emotional – last night, our first night home from the hospital, I went to bed and put my hands on my tummy like I’ve been doing for many pregnant months, expecting to feel the baby move. I started crying as I realized I was “alone,” and that Gwendolyn was no longer a part of me; I’m now responsible for taking care of this child, and teaching her how to be independent and leave the nest. Scary and sad and exciting and surreal and painful and mind-boggling and exhausting and a host of other things – this mommy thing – but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The lil’ cutie-pie getting her diaper changed @ home