birth story

Clara’s Birth Story – born 1/27/11, written 7/27/11, edited 3/16/12
After a struggle to get pregnant, I had the world’s best pregnancy.
Clara was due on January 21. I went to the doctor that day (a Friday) and was not dilated at all. They did an ultrasound to make sure Clara was OK to wait awhile longer to join the world, and scheduled an induction for the following week.
I worked through Tuesday, and checked into the hospital Wednesday evening around 6. They were to do the cervical ripening procedure that night, and start the Pitocin the following morning. By the time they hooked me up to the monitor, I was already having fairly regular contractions. I couldn’t feel them at all.
The cervical ripening procedure was rough but quick. We had picked up some movies on the way to the hospital and watched this:
It was hilariously bad. 
Around midnight, Scott went home to let the dog out. While he was gone, my contractions suddenly became quite painful. I paced the halls because it was more comfortable to be up and about (even when regularly doubling over in pain) than sitting in bed twiddling my thumbs. A nurse offered me some pain medicine at this point, but I turned it down based on advice from a trusted friend who was convinced taking the first pain medicine offered eventually led to her C-section.
Between midnight and 7 AM, the contractions became more frequent and more painful. They were less than two minutes apart, yet, when my doctor arrived, it was revealed that I was only 1-2 centimeters dilated. She tried to break my water to speed up dilation and effacement, but I screamed in pain. Any dreams of going without an epidural went out the window at that point. The anesthesiologist checked out my x-rays (I have severe scoliosis), then came in to perform the procedure, warning me that it might not work because of my anatomy. I was shaking violently. I signed something saying I could be paralyzed if I wasn’t perfectly still for the procedure… or something like that…. I was in so much pain I would’ve signed ANYTHING.
He got it on the first try and it wasn’t painful at all. I was administered a spinal anesthetic on top of the epidural drug, and felt 100% better literally immediately. Scott, on the other hand, almost passed out from watching this and had to be helped to a seat! That was kind of hilarious even in the midst of the pain.
Soon after the epidural line was put in, my doctor came back and broke my water. I didn’t feel or see anything, but she said it was a “gush.” This was approximately 8:30 AM.  She then placed an internal monitor on Clara’s head.
Minutes later, Clara’s heart-rate began to go crazy. I was so drugged-up that it tempered my concern about this situation. I felt somewhat trapped --- like I wanted to freak out but could not think or talk clearly enough to do so. My doctor was called back in, and they decided to stop the Pitocin and give me a shot in the arm to STOP the contractions. I was given oxygen at this point, and would have it until I gave birth 9 or so hours later. Oxygen is miserable and dehydrating, in case you didn’t know.
Clara’s heart-rate was crazy on and off for about two hours and there was vague, quiet talk of a C-section. Thankfully, eventually her heart-rate calmed down somewhat and they started a low dose of the Pitocin again. This may have been around 11 AM. I was in no pain, hadn’t been since the epidural was administered, and wouldn’t be for many more hours.
From around 11 AM to 4 PM, I just lay in bed and watched Clara’s heart-rate on the monitor. There were times it would go crazy again, and the nurse and/or doctor would rush in to check on us, but it always passed in a few minutes. They kept giving me more IV fluids, which apparently helped Clara’s heart calm down directly or indirectly [side note: my legs were comically swollen from all the fluids after Clara was finally born].
At around 4 PM, two things started happening: (1) I started feeling some pain again; (2) my doctor said I might need a C-section, as I was still only about 5 centimeters dilated. They upped the Pitocin, worked on my pain management, and checked my cervix about every 30 minutes. Progress was slow.
My nurse told me she got off at 6 PM. My doctor was obviously ready to go home. At 5:15 PM, they were about to pull the trigger on a C-section, when I felt a new sensation. It was lower than my contractions, and both dull and intense at the same time. The nurse, skeptical, checked me again and was shocked to find I was dilated to 9.5 centimeters. She said I was going to be able to deliver vaginally after all, and notified the nurse’s station and my doctor of the same.
At that moment, I realized for the first time exactly what I would have to do to get Clara out, and I was TERRIFIED. They expected her to weigh 7.5 pounds, but knowing she’d really weigh 6.0 pounds wouldn’t really have made me feel any better.
I pushed for one hour and five minutes with Scott and the nurse by my side, holding my legs up. The oxygen was driving me crazy and the nurse eventually gave in to my plea for water – one sip of it. I was in great pain, especially in my hips. Not sure what happened to my epidural, but I felt everything. I wanted to quit and go home! I had no concept of whether or not I was making any progress, which was very frustrating when the nurse informed me (with the first 20 or so pushes, it seems) that I wasn’t.
Finally, at around 6:25, they called for the doctor. The room was filled with people and equipment in literally seconds. My doctor quickly surveyed the scene and said to a woman standing next to her “hand me the lidocaine.” I flipped out and screamed “PLEASE DON’T CUT ME!!!”  In retrospect, this is funny, but at the time, I was terrified. My usually mild-mannered doctor looked at me with the most serious face --- what seemed at the time to be a chiding face --- and said “I have to do this to get her out.”  I was so taken-aback by this that I mumbled “ok,” tried to hold my legs still and held my breath. She must have swiped on the lidocaine and done the incision very quickly, because with one more almost effortless push, the baby came sliding out mere moments later. [My doctor would later tell me that she had always worried I wouldn’t be able to give birth vaginally because of my small size and the size they expected Clara to be.] 
I saw Clara in the doctor’s arms. The moment was totally surreal. They asked Scott if he wanted to cut the cord and he said no. They did it out of my sight, and then transferred Clara to an area about 7 feet from my birthing bed to be weighed, etc.  Her APGARs were 8 and 9. She weighed 6 pounds and was 21 inches long. I kept saying how cute she was, though in retrospect, the thing that really stands out was how incredibly skinny she was. My first post-partum nurse thought she was early – not a week late!
first photo of Clara, about a minute after being born
I was dazed, traumatized by how painful the birth had been, and yet also instantly totally in love. Scott cried.  Our family was complete.  My doctor quietly stitched me up (painlessly, thanks to the lidocaine).  I requested a water and coke and am pretty sure the first sip of coke was the best thing I have EVER tasted, as dehydrated as I was.
Sadly, six months later, we can’t remember if it was Scott or I who held Clara first, but I do remember when she was placed in my arms. It felt so natural, which was something I’d been concerned about (despite having dealt with infertility and wanting a baby so badly). Her eyes were wide open and she was quiet. It was the best moment of my life.
less than an hour after her birth. I was exhaaaauuuuuuusted.
Clara nursed without a hitch, and then we invited our family in to meet her. They commented about how alert she was and how they couldn’t believe I’d been in labor for nearly 24 hours. Many pictures were taken.
We stayed in the hospital two nights. My recovery was a breeze. Then we came home and the real fun began.

3/16/12 addition - A friend just had a baby and said her doctor was concerned during labor that the baby's cord might be wrapped around his neck. This reminded me that Clara had a nuchal cord, and that I'd forgotten to include this information in her birth story. Clara's nuchal cord, like many if not most, did not cause problems for her. We're not sure how long she had it before she was born, though it hadn't been apparent on an ultrasound six days prior.