I became pregnant with my third child just after our wedding day in march, 2000. we think the baby may have been conceived during the honeymoon or just after. either way, we were thrilled when we discovered about a month after the wedding that we were having a new baby. since we found out so early in the pregnancy, we considered that the baby would be not more than a collection of dividing cells at that point (remembered from high school biology class as called a zygote), so we gave the unborn baby the nickname "baby ziggy".
I quickly calculated the estimated due date as december 23, 2000 (based on Mittendorf's Study, which found that first pregnancies lasted on average 288 days and subsequent pregnancies 283 days). using this formula to calculate the estimated due date, take the date of the last menstrual period, subtract three months and add ten days. in our case, that was march 13 - three months = december 13. december 13 + ten days = december 23.)
because of my previous birth experiences, in which I had to forcibly hold off the doctors from inducing me against my will, we decided to go ahead and give ourselves a little "padding" and added ten days to my LMP date. that way, the doctor's office would expect the baby later than we did (december 28) and would have no reason to request an induction, even if we went a week or more over the true due date (i.e. the date we calculated.)
we made an appointment to meet with the obstetrician. before the wedding, we had lined one up who had a respected midwife practice that worked out of the major women's hospital in chicago, prentice women's hospital at northwestern memorial. we had to see the ob first to get the referral to the midwives and so I went to his office at ten weeks gestation. he did a routine internal exam and then started the slide the ultrasound equipment by the table where I was lying.
"let's get a look at the little guy", he said.
"that's ok", I said, "we would prefer to have no unnecessary tests."
"don't you want to make sure it's alive?", he said. I love this, I guess it's some sort of technique to force skeptical women like me into unnecessary tests through creating guilt.
"the baby is just fine. we'll wait to see him or her when he or she is born."
he looked a little confused then said, "ok then. we'll set you up with the midwives for the rest of your appointments. good luck and congratulations!"
we managed to avoid a large array of tests in this manner. when presented with an opportunity to test, we asked ourselves, "what will we do with the information if it's positive or gives a result that is less than what we're hoping for?" realizing that there was nothing that would come of having the information, we declined all optional tests throughout our pregnancy. we never had an ultrasound (so common these days) or an AFP (genetic abnormality screen).
my maternity visits included a half an hour or an hour with the midwives and I visited each one in turn. my visits were scheduled once per month starting in june 2000 through october 2000 then twice a month in november then once a week in december. we talked about how I was feeling, occasionally took blood, and listened to the baby's heartbeat using the fetoscope. I gained about 2-3 pounds between each visit, getting up to 155 pounds from my starting weight of 118 pounds. I never had any elevated blood sugar, never retained water and stayed active. we did not have any internal (pelvic) exams during our entire pregnancy.
the pregnancy was uneventful and I continued to ride my horse, dax, through mid-december. it was a horrible winter with days and days of snow, blizzards, ice and sub-zero temperatures. I was still working in the city at the time and took the train to the city, walked to the el, took the el north to chicago ave, then walked to our offices from there. all told, it was about an hour and a quarter commute each way from our house in the northwest suburbs. on monday and friday mornings and thursday afternoons I also had the responsibility to drop off and pick up my two girls at their school in the city so my commute was even longer.
around the end of november and beginning of december I started getting very uncomfortable and waddling quite dramatically. I knew that the baby would be born soon and started to become anxious for labor to begin.
at my last maternity appointments, the midwife offered to check my cervix for dilation but I said "well, if I'm dilated I will expect labor to start soon. If it does not, I will be disappointed. If I'm not dilated I will know that labor is a long way away and I will be disappointed. So what's the point of checking my dilation?"
finally it came to be december 18, 2000. my birthday. we didn't do anything special and I was due for my next midwife visit in three days. michael and I talked about it, and I decided that I was much too anxious for labor to begin to wait much longer. I was so uncomfortable. I could not sit, I could not lie down, I could not walk. seemingly, the only thing I could do that didn't make me uncomfortable was ride dax. isn't that strange?
at my next midwife appointment I asked to have my cervix checked. sure enough, I was dilated to 3cm and still walking around, commuting to work and working a full day! I was proud of myself and knew that I had a good running start once labor started with only 7cm more to go.
I had already planned to take the next day, friday december 22, 2000, off work. elaine and grace (the sisters) were to take part in the annual "holiday hoopla" at their school in the city and I wanted to be there to watch them sing onstage and to attend their holiday parties before their winter vacation.
friday morning we got up early and drove downtown from our suburban home in northwest chicagoland. it's about an hour and quarter of driving time between home and school and we arrived right on time around 845am. I dropped off the girls and then looked for parking. I attended their holiday hoopla an hour later and did some quality videotaping. after about an hour of video, I started feeling braxton hicks contractions in earnest, so earnest in fact that I started timing them. they were coming irregularly and only every 10-15 minutes so I decided it was still not time.
after the holiday presentation, I took a long walk down lincoln avenue to the gap store and to waxman candles (my favorite candle shop) to finish my Christmas shopping. once I started walking in the very very cold but sunnny weather, my contractions stopped and I almost felt like my normal self. except of course for the large, 20 pound basketball under my shirt (and not incidentally, on top of my bladder.)
I finished all of my Christmas shopping over the next hour or so and then I went back to the girls school to attend their holiday parties. around 230pm we bundled into the truck to visit with michael's parents two hours out of the city. driving in rush hour traffic for two hours at nine months pregnant had to be one of the most uncomfortable days I have spent in years.
the next day I spent with the girls hanging out making Christmas cookies. I had sent michael on a mission that morning while he was finishing his shopping to please pick up a jogging bra and tank top for me to wear in the birthing pool. I also decided that this was the day to wash all of the babies bedclothes and new outfits and car seat carrier. I should have seen these as signs...
after walking up and down the stairs about a hundred times to tend to the washing machine and baking cookies and making a gingerbread house, I was dead tired when the girls' father picked them up at 700pm to spend Christmas eve with him in the city.
I had just made myself a fettucini and sat down to eat when the braxton hicks contractions started coming again. they went on for about fifteen minutes before I decided to start timing them. hmmmmm every ten minutes and regular. could this be it?
just then michael came home from shopping. he took one look at my face as I sat on the couch with my hand on my belly and said "what are you doing?"
I said "nothing".
He said "if we were in labor, you would tell me right?".
"Of course" I said "but it's not happening tonight."
"oh, ok. right, whatever you say" he said and started to make himself some dinner.
I said "you know, I had a really busy day. maybe I'll go lay down and get some rest just in case we go into labor tonight" and I went to lay down.
michael came to visit with me, standing in the doorway. he was just talking to me about his day when I felt the baby move very suddenly - then a pinch - then POP! as the bed between my legs started soaking.
"yikes!!" I said "I think my water just broke!"
michael burst into action and started calling his parents, my parents and everybody. "laura's water broke! this is it!!" he cried.
"calm down" I said "I haven't even had a contraction yet. I'm going to call the midwife and give her a heads up. but we are going to wait for at least an hour to see what happens with the contractions."
for the next hour, contractions were three minutes apart and lasted 35-45 seconds. we caught the entire labor on videotape, including me sipping a glass of wine between contractions. I was doing plies next to the desk in the living room, where I was recording the contractions, packing the bags and checking off the items on my "to bring to the hospital list". as each contraction would come, I would breath slowly iiiiinnnnnn, stretch my arms up over my head and slowly bring them down to my sides, caressing my stomach while I plied down towards the floor by bending my knees and breathing very slowly ooouuuuutttttt. I managed to breathe only once in this manner through each contraction, such that no matter how intense they got, my rhythm never altered and I was calmed and relaxed with the routine. all the while I made absolutely sure to relax my stomach and uterine muscles so that my cervix could thin and open as it needed to.
at 900pm we called the midwife and gave her the update. we agreed to leave soon and meet her at the birthing tubs at the hospital at 1000pm.
the ride to the city in the bronco was a hoot. I was in the back seat, leaning over the back of the seat looking at the cars behind us while michael pushed the accelerator to the floor on the highway. we were doing the speed limit and half way there when the contractions started to get mean. I continued to use my sss---lllll---oooooo----wwww breathing to get through them but they got suddenly more insistent and I was no longer able to get through one contraction with one breath. I would say to michael "ok here it comes!" and breath while my eyes stared unseeing at the highway behind us. after a few of these super intense contractions, I said to michael "this is IT! get going or we are going to have this baby in the truck!" and he sped up significantly.
we arrived on the 5th floor at 1010pm. the nurses checked me out while I went through the check-in procedures and agreed that I was in very active labor. I was admitted. I had my birthing outfit on under my clothes and I could not wait to strip and get into the pool. the midwife checked me and I was found to be six cm dilated. I had wanted to be eight cm dilated - but six was ok, too.
I stepped into the tub and lowered myself in. it felt GREAT! instantly the water took the edge off of the contractions and I was ready again to deal with them. michael asked me about CD music selections and put santana supernatural into the player. cj, our sister in law, arrived and started the videotape on the tripod. our midwife, carol, positioned herself near my waist and prompted me to drink from my water bottle. the team was assembled and ready.
the next 45 minutes or so is a blur. luckily we have it all on video so I can watch it any time (and have watched it about 20 times already!). the contractions got longer and closer together and before I knew it, I could feel the urge to push. since my water had broken the midwife did not want to check my progress more than she had to so I tried very hard not to push. I wanted to be sure I was 10 cm dilated and ready so I gritted my teeth through those last 15 minutes of contractions and held the sides of the pool in a vise grip. but I continued to do whatever it took to relax my stomach muscles and my uterus so as not to interfere with the opening of my cervix. it took all of my strength to relax those muscles while every other muscle of my body was tensing isometrically.
finally we hit transition and I knew we were there because the contractions didn't stop and my legs started to cramp terribly. the midwife and the nurse got into their scrubs and cj trained the video camera at the baby's expected exit point. ;-) I pushed hard for about 15 minutes and the baby moved downward ever so slowly. finally, a head appeared between my legs. I turned to the midwife and said "can I get my epidural now?" just before the top of the head actually started to emerge and we could see little ears on each side.
I had not had a lot of *pain* per se up to this point - I had been through a lot of discomfort and intense sensations. but I must say that when the head the size of a cantalope starts to emerge from the hole the size of a pea, there is a sheer wall of pain that you are very afraid to push through. I could almost see it in front of me; the only thing motivating me to keep pushing through was my husband massaging and encouraging me to help us meet our baby, and the feeling of the baby moving around inside me, so close to the outside world.
it was 1110pm and I knew we were at the point of no return. no matter how much it hurt, I had to get the baby out now. something told me we needed to get the baby out as fast as possible and I pushed with all of my might. the midwife spied the cord around the baby's neck and pulled the loop free. I knew by looking at her face that she was worried that the baby's oxygen may have been compromised, so when she started to pull I started to push. I gritted my teeth and pushed for all I was worth! it felt like she was pulling out my intestines - it hurt.
finally after what seemed like forever but was probably only 5 seconds, the baby slid out and was placed on my stomach (1115pm). I held the baby up so that michael alone could see the sex and michael screamed "IT'S A BOY !!". then he cut the cord and I was in heaven, stroking and murmuring to the baby. through my happy fog I heard someone say "he needs oxygen" and he was whisked out of my arms toward the warming beds.
everyone disappeared and I was lying the pool, recovering as though I had just run a marathon. I was tired. I had been sweating profusely during the entire labor and birth but I had drunk about three bottles of water. I was uncomfortable in oh so many ways. I had to wait for someone to come and retrieve me from the pool and walk with me to the delivery beds so that I could push the placenta. this took only about 10 or 15 minutes and meanwhile I heard the baby start to cry.
the nurse wrapped the baby in a little receiving blanket and brought him to michael and I, who were waiting for him on the delivery bed. he was so sweet. his short duration of oxygen deprivation had no ill effects and he was completely alert and looking around at his surroundings and his new mom and dad.
we moved up to a recovery room about an hour later, with me walking and pushing all of our bags in the wheelchair (to satisfy hospital regulations) and the nurse carrying the baby. since it was so close to Christmas, the hospital was quiet and all of the nurses wanted to hear our birth story. what they heck? their shift wasn't over until 7am, so what if they kept us up till 230am? kane's alertness was amazing, his eyes remained wide open and he quietly took in everything around us until we all finally fell asleep around 300am.
we slept all of three hours and the baby was ready for his first feeding. this took about 20 minutes to get going but finally he was eating like a pro. we slept some more and it was morning. I woke up before michael and deposited our little bundle, still sleeping, in the bassinet and headed into the shower. it felt great to be all clean and fresh. I put on some makeup, did my hair and threw on my tie-dye t-shirt and my blue robe. then kane and I started pacing the halls looking for someone to release us.
we were told that the pediatrician would be at the hospital by at least 800am, even on Christmas eve, so we asked that he be paged so that we could be first on his list. then, I called the midwife and advised her that we were ready to check out. she said that she would be in to see us by 900am at the latest.
after these perfunctory appointments, we checked ourselves out and headed home. we arrived home at 1115am Christmas eve day and spent the day in bed, watching the birth video and sleeping. we spent the next two days visiting with family, enjoying the holiday and our new baby boy, kane michael.