Friday, December 13, 2013

le birth story

First, thank you all so much for all the cheers and kind words on the last post and your warm welcome of baby Ezra's arrival. The last few days have been a total whirlwind – of boobs and babies and teeny tiny fingernails that are sharp as knives and jaundice and phototherapy spa lights and then, mostly more boobs (mine) and pinchy gums (his). Much more on all of that to come.

The tag on this hat says "infant." Because Baby Gap is full of liars.

This post is long and light on witty sarcasm, entertaining links and my usual banter. Because you guys, I have human life to sustain! So, for what it’s worth, here in a nutshell, is <wait for it> THE BIRTH STORY.

Sunday, 3:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Sarah to C: this feels…different
C to Sarah: you seriously think you’re going into labor?

<Collective panic and disbelief>

Around 3 on Sunday afternoon, I began to notice some pretty intense lower back pain. It was rhythmic, in a pattern, sometimes a bit of a scattered pattern, but a pattern nonetheless. C thought I was crazy. Going into labor 12 days before my due date? No way. So we went about our day.
I ran errands and went grocery shopping and started cooking – C’s sister and her boyfriend were coming for dinner. I made this and this and C roasted a chicken. And during it all, starting around 4, I began to keep track of the frequency of what were increasingly becoming like, you know, real contractions.

By the time they showed up to dinner, things were picking up in intensity and let’s just be honest: I was pretty sure this was it. The pain was quickly ratcheting up. C remained in denial while we wined and dined our guests and I kept a firm eye on the clock. 5-1-1 totally ingrained in my brain.

Sunday, 9:00 pm – 11:30 pm

Finally, around 9 pm, they left and I casually mentioned to C that we might want to consider packing our hospital bag. We hastily took pictures of my bump – capture the moment! – and threw some random and totally uncoordinated clothing, the Sunday New York Times, two pears and a bag of almonds (?) into our already packed hospital bag. Like I said, collective panic.

I decided I would just give the on-call OB a ring and you know, have a little heart to heart. She said this was probably it but of course couldn’t know for sure without examining me. She said I was more than welcome to stay home for as long as I was comfortable – barring any of the scary stuff (blood, etc.) and since I’m group B strep negative – and could check back in with her in an hour or so. Not wanting to jump the gun on hospital admission, I decided to see if I could ride things out.

This was when things started to get pretty dicey. The contractions were definitely every five minutes and the pain rhymed with… excruciating. I got down on all fours and tried to breathe through it. I threw myself over an exercise ball and tried to breathe through it. I grabbed C’s hand in agony and cursed my way through it. I took a hot shower. Mostly, I just tried to stay relaxed. In between contractions I was a completely sane and rational person, I was packing up snacks for the hospital, hanging out with the dog, responding to work emails. But during the contractions? It was like I’d had a lobotomy. I was in a trance. A totally altered state. I could not speak nor be spoken to. It might have been enchanting if you know, I didn’t feel like I was dying.

Sunday, 11:30 pm ish

My water didn’t break, but something about this just started to get a bit too real. The pain, the frequency (was that seriously 3 minutes between contractions? Good lord). So we tidied up the house, took a nice long gander at the nursery - <imagine a total mind trip as we envision putting a BABY, our baby, in there> - and booked it to the hospital.
Did I mention it was snowing?

Sunday, 11:30 pm – 2:30 am

By the time we got to the hospital, I was about 3.5 centimeters dilated. So we just started walking. Up and down the hall, past the nurses’ station and back again. Every 3 minutes or so, I would – please take a moment to put on your visualization caps because, I promise you, this looked insane – drop to my hands and knees, in the middle of the hallway, and start breathing deeply while C put his hands on my lower back. About a minute later, I would get up, back to my usual self, and keep walking. I looked, in a word, like a maniac.

By 2:30 am I hadn’t progressed any further and the nurses and doctors suggested I go back home – that I’d be more comfortable there, I could be in my own bed (let’s take a moment to laugh hysterically at the idea that I could sleep through any of this), take a shower in my own shower, eat my own food (nauseating). So despite my better judgment, we returned home. For approximately 30 seconds.

Sunday, 4 am onward

After going home, indulging in suffering through a hot shower, one of us taking a nap (not it!) and screaming obscenities at the dog when she tried to lick my face during a contraction (I’m so sorry, Luna), I begged C to drive us back to the hospital – a harrowing 10 minute ride during which I may have broken several of his fingers.

Back at the hospital, I was congratulated on being 4 cm dilated <curtsy> and we were admitted to a room. Before this, my birth plan had been pretty simple: healthy baby, healthy mama. Those were the goals. Would I prefer to avoid medical interventions like epidurals and c-sections? Absolutely. Had I had the requisite conversation with my doctor and the nurses about taking natural measures to avoid all that? You betcha.

Here’s what happened when I reached 5 cm dilated:

I cannot adequately articulate the depth of the pain. I think I’m a strong person, but I’m also not sure that I don’t have an unusually low threshold for pain. This pain was deep – it was burning, it was relentless, it was overwhelming and all consuming in its intensity. It left me breathless. Not that I didn’t expect labor to be painful – even toe curling – but this, this was other worldly.

The epidural took more than 45 minutes to place in my back. Apparently I am blessed with “shallow vertebrae” and need more back fat. I was not amused.

But I can say without hesitation, the epidural was the best decision I ever made. I still felt my contractions, I still felt my legs and my feet. But it was so much more manageable. I could doze a little bit, have a conversation, breathe. At some point during this time, my water broke, my parents arrived and C ate a cheeseburger. Maybe even in that order.

Monday, about 3 pm

And then, just like that – or rather 24 hours after I first began to believe I was in labor – it was time to push. So with each contraction, I pushed. C would count to ten as he and the nurse held my knees and I pulled back my legs, bearing down as hard as I could, 3 times with each contraction, holding all the air in like an Olympic swimmer. Despite everyone’s repeated praise and admiration about my tremendous pushing abilities, it took eons (approximately) for the baby’s head to clear my pelvic bone. At a certain point, much to everyone’s amusement, I apparently began screaming demands like just pull him out of me! I don’t care! Just pull him out of me! JUST GRAB HIS EVERLOVING HEAD AND YANK HIM THE HELL OUT.

And then, after an hour and twenty minutes, at approximately 4:26 pm, there he was. Dropped immediately on my chest like a fetal pup[1] – red and eyes closed and fussing and oh my god he is peeing all over me and I do not care[2].

After that they delivered the placenta – that was less fun than I might have imagined, just saying – and proceeded to <gulp> stitch me up. At which point I was informed that I had a third degree (with fourth being the worst – which must mean, apparently that they basically just cut off your legs?) laceration and was essentially going to have stitches from my ankles to my elbows. And those stitches? ALSO less fun than I might have imagined. More on that harrowing adventure in another post.
But for now, that’s where I’ll call it a day.

This post has been brought to you by the Medela hands free freestyle pump, the Obamacare that paid for it and some ridiculous pink hands free bra that has a stylish 90s front zipper but is also totally amazing and OH MY GOD ALL I DO IS PUMP, FEED, PUMP, FEED, PUMP, FEED.

Not me, but totally could be.

<End Scene>.

[1] We had asked for immediate skin to skin contact (check) and delayed cord cutting (check).
[2] It’s entirely possible that I did not shower for more than 24 hours after my new born son peed all over my chest. That is love, people. Love and being totally preoccupied with someone else’s needs that are not my own. It’s also disgusting.


  1. Such a good birth story! I know you said the epidural was the best decision, but do you regret it even a little?

    Glad you got the specific things you requested, and glad he is healthy and adorable xx

  2. Ahh so great to hear the details! So happy for you!

  3. So exciting! I am so glad to hear things worked out as you planned (with the delayed cord cutting and the immediate skin to skin) Congratulations again!!

  4. I can't even blame postpartum hormones. For some reason, my tears started with you on hands and knees in the hallway and C putting his hands on your lower back. (?) Of course, it picked up when he was actually born. AE was very concerned for a minute because I was laughing out loud with tears streaming down my face.

    This is a beautiful birth story, my friend. Ezra is so, so cute (and I want that hat when you're done with it). His little shoulders. I have no words.

    And also, I just received my hands-free pumping bra, too. Thank you, Aunt T for purchasing me a baby shower unfriendly but incredibly functional gift!

  5. Birth experiences are so incredibly intense and unique and challenging and amazing. It was so fun to read your story!