Anthony’s Birth Story:
On Friday, November 30th, I had a doctor’s appointment. My doctor did an internal exam and declared me 3cm dilated, 50% effaced, and said that once my water broke my labor would be really fast. She also estimated that my baby was under 8 lbs.
On Saturday morning, contractions started. But they were far-between and mild, so I sent my husband to work anyway. Good call. By the time he got home from work, 11 hours later, I was still not having seriously close together or painful contractions.
By late Saturday night my contractions were 5 minutes apart and definitely not Braxton/Hicks, so my husband and I were starting to think of getting our daughter (22 month old Rebecca) to my parents’ house, where my dad would watch her while I was in the hospital. At 1 am Sunday morning we made that call, and headed over. My contractions stalled a bit in the car (to 8-9 minutes apart) so we decided to take a drive through downtown and look at the City Christmas Lights display. Once we’d driven through that we headed to my parents’ place, where we frantically tracked down the infant car seat that we had stored there, only to find that it didn’t fit into our car at the same time as our daughter’s toddler car seat. So we had to put her seat in the trunk and won’t be driving both of them together anywhere for a bit, until we find the adapters to get the infant seat on a side seat. Through all this, my contractions continued at about 5 minutes apart, strong enough to knock the wind out of me but little else.
So we called L&D and told them we might be in soon. They said fine, and they would expect us, and get the antibiotics for my Strep B ordered. We expected to leave the house soon, because the contractions were hurting a bit and had been coming closer and closer together.
Of course, contractions stopped at that point.
After 30 minutes of nothing, at 3 am, we decided to try and get some rest. I camped out on the couch and my husband on the reclining chair, and we tried to sleep.
This is where it gets weird.
My contractions were far apart, I mean FAR apart, once every 45 minutes or an hour (it was hard to tell, I was asleep between them), but PAINFUL. Each one felt like the transition contractions I had felt with my daughter, plus a ton of back pain and cramping. Definitely enough so that I’d wake up each time. The back pain was the worst. It felt like someone had stuck a broomstick up my rear, and lodged it at my coccyx, but continued to push upwards as if somehow that bone could be pushed through. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I would simultaneously feel the violent need to make a bowel movement, and to urinate. Of course, when I tried my bowels were empty and I couldn’t pee a drop. I felt knees through my belly and knew I was in back labor. Oh God, I had heard of this, but hadn’t really believed it would be this much worse.
At 5 my mom woke up to check on us. She encouraged me to walk to get the contractions going, but they were SO PAINFUL, the last thing I wanted was more of them!! Of course, we decided that since they were so far apart there was no use getting to the hospital, even though they were absolute torture when they did come (and I had gone unmedicated with my first, so I knew…)
So for a couple more hours we sat around, ate breakfast, tried not to make a scene for the poor teenager my parents were hosting from off-island while she went to a nearby school, and had a couple more contractions. At 9 my mom convinced me to get into the shower. So I did, and it was so very pleasant in all that warm water, where I could point the stream at my back, which had begun to ache even between contractions. I stayed in there for a long time.
And then the contractions started coming. Oh boy, did they come. 2 minutes apart, so painful, and here I was standing in the shower with shampoo in my hair feeling a strong urge to push. Instead, I tightened up, finished my shower, got dressed, and had my husband and my mom out the door in record time.
The car ride was torture. Luckily, Sunday mornings in Honolulu are traffic-free, and we got to the hospital quickly. I told my husband as I finished up a contraction in the parking lot that if I wasn’t ready to push when we got to L&D, I didn’t know if I would survive the experience. I had three contractions between the car and the emergency entrance, a mere 50 foot walk that had become the most difficult hike of my life. The emergency room logged our entrance at 10:31 am.
The security guard, who thankfully had half a brain about him and understood my husband’s “um, they’re close together, um, yeah…”, recognized the seriousness of the situation and got me directly into a wheelchair and into the check-in immediately, in front of over a dozen other people there. As I had found out in the car, sitting was the WRONG position for back labor, and every moment in that wheelchair was agony. The nurse from L&D arrives very quickly. I love her for hurrying down the hall, and for not acting the least bit phased when during a contraction I leaned out of the chair as we were still motoring full-speed down the hall. At 10:33 I was wheeled into my room in L&D. Since my mom works at the hospital, they gave us the best room (with tables and chairs and tons of space), but it turned out to be a little pointless…
I was given a gown and changed between contractions. A nurse ran an IV (well, put in a Heparin Lock) for antibiotics. By this point my contractions were yelling-strong, a point I never reached when I gave birth to my daughter. The nurse was quick and checked me right when we got there. She declared me 6-7 cm dilated, but my body declared me ready to push and there was nothing I could do to stop it. The issues of IV and antibiotics, and the question of pain medications that had so obviously been on the nurse’s lips, became academic.
10:35 – contraction. I bear down gently, and in the wrong position. My water breaks all over the bed.
10:36 – next contraction. Again in the wrong position. I push but arch my back and make little progress. The doctor enters the room mid-push and waits until I get through the contraction to rearrange me and tell me what to do. I’ve never met him before, but love him for knowing when I can bear to be moved and when to leave me alone, and for believing that I’m ready to push despite the nurse next to him saying I’m not. She checks me again as the contraction wanes, and lo and behold, I am fully dilated, and baby’s head is already coming past the cervix.
10:37 – next contraction. I push with all the intensity my body desires. My husband yells at me to take a breath; he’s scared because I haven’t been breathing in at all, just pushing and pushing and pushing. But I can’t breathe…my body wants to push SO badly! The nurse comes running in (literally) with the mirror, and I see that the head is crowning.
Doctor-who-is-unnamed tells me that I need to stop pushing so hard or I’ll tear badly, so I breathe and bear down as gently as my body lets me, which is pretty strong still. I continue to bear down as the contraction ends, and out comes the head.
I’m told to give a bit of a push to help get the shoulders out, but my body won’t let me, and I tell the doctor this. I’ve experienced some vast shift in my hormones and my body has decided that it is done. Doctor Unknown tells me to exhale and he works the shoulders out, and I push a tiny bit and out comes my son. It is 10:38. I entered the hospital exactly 7 minutes ago.
And so Anthony Michael, all 8 lbs 7 oz, 20 ¾ inches of him, was born at 10:38 am on Sunday, December 2, 2001.
I want to hold him skin-to-skin, but the hospital robe doesn’t open in the front and isn’t cooperating with me. So I practically rip of the robe, absolutely heedless of the fact that a large portion of the L&D staff is now in the room, summoned on a nurse’s mistaken reading of an old bulletin that I am 33 weeks along. And there I am, totally naked, oblivious to the medical bustle and gear-up around me. Apparently Mr. Doctor is ignoring the havoc too, because didn’t even look twice before handing the baby over. As nurses disburse the crowd and un-alarm the neonatologist, we act like we’ve rehearsed this a million times: off comes the robe, here comes the baby, one smooth movement, it must have taken two seconds. And now nobody else exists as I look at my new little one. Absolutely perfect, and absolutely different from my daughter in every way.
As the nurses put warm towels on me and Anthony (our new son), I stare at his pitch-black, straight hair, and his plump face, his dark eyes, and reflect about how different he is from our blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned daughter. We had joked before about how since my husband and I are both mixed ethnicities, our children could run the range of traits, and since our daughter came out looking very caucasian, it would funny if our son came out Hawaiian. But we weren’t really expecting him to; it was a complete surprise to see our little one come out so entirely different from our daughter. So much plumper, so much darker, so much more peaceful!! He nursed only 10 minutes after birth, and attached himself perfectly right away and wouldn’t let go for 30 minutes. The nurses understood and didn’t take him away.
Meanwhile, a different doctor came in and went to stitch up the (small) tear in my perineum. I hate her. She pushes down on my perineum to see what she is doing, a move that puts me in incredible pain, which I tell her about but she ignores. She declares my tear not very bad and says it’s a good thing I didn’t get an episiotomy (as if I had an opportunity, as if I wanted one…as if it was ever a consideration…). I feel like pushing, so I do and out comes the placenta. This new doctor takes it as a cue to go ahead and begin repair. She pushes hard on my uterus to get it to contract (which it wasn’t having problems with, believe me) and then she gives me local anesthetic and starts stitching. Although the tear is much smaller than the one I had with my daughter, she takes nearly 5 times as long to stitch it up, every moment of which I feel despite the anesthetic, and nearly all of which she spends pushing on exactly the spot that I told her was in the most pain. She tells me to relax. My husband looks at her like she’s nuts, and tells me to try and focus on baby and ignore the stitching. When she finishes, I am incredibly swollen and in quite a bit of pain from both that and the cramping. Claire, our assigned nurse, makes me an ice pack for my bottom and gets me some Motrin. And then, with good humor, goes about officially admitting us to the hospital. Nearly an hour after our baby is born, we sign the forms. My husband, baby, and I get bracelets, and baby gets an anklet with an alarm on it that will set off the hospital’s security system if he is taken near the stairs or elevators without us.
A few minutes later, Claire helps me out of bed and into the bathroom. My bladder must have been obstructed during labor, because I just go and go and go. I laugh a bit because it reminds me of a certain scene in the movie “Austin Powers.” Ah, relief…I’d been having to go for hours but unable, and it’s nice to know it wasn’t just my imagination. Claire cleans me up and I walk out into the room and find that I’m more comfortable walking around. If I had my way, I would have walked out of the hospital right away and settled in with my little one at home. But I couldn’t. Not hospital policy; nope, I had to get into a wheelchair and head for the mother/baby unit of the hospital, so that we could be poked and prodded on their good time for the next 24 hours. I so wanted my own bed, and not to be woken for meaningless checks or instructed on baby care after I’d told them I’d been through it all before. Home birth next time?
When we got to the mother/baby unit and settled into our room (a double room, but we had it to ourselves), we called my dad and had him bring our daughter in to see Anthony. When they showed up 45 minutes later, my dad had a surprise; he had taught Rebecca to say “Tony,” and when she leaned over to look at her new brother, she yelled his name and woke him up. She was so fascinated by him!!! She stared and stared, and smiled and smiled.
We survive, bleary-eyed, through a night of frequent vital checks and tests. Anthony slept for a surprising portion of the night, just eating and dozing from 11 pm to 7 am. After a final round of checks and tests and signatures, we leave the hospital at around 11 am, and gratefully head into the car and home.
Ahhh, home, I am so very glad to be home. My husband sets to work preparing some real food. The hospital food was awful, and we were both starving. I am surprised people manage to live on that stuff for any period of time. I nurse Anthony and relax, happy that I can doze off without worrying about my next blood pressure check. My mom brings Rebecca to the house and we try our best to settle in, but everything is new. I reflect again about how different it is this time around; different house, different circumstances, and most of all different babies. Our Anthony is so calm, he nurses so well and sleeps so peacefully, the complete polar opposite of Rebecca as an infant. Of course, he is only a day old and we may yet have to deal with Rebecca-esque screaming frenzies, but looking at him now I doubt it.
It is the afternoon on December 4th now, and as I finish up this story Rebecca and Anthony are napping peacefully together. They are sleeping in exactly the same position, Rebecca suddenly looking so big in my eyes, and Anthony looking so tiny. It will be a beautiful photo. My husband and I were watching them sleep, and I told him that we have kids now. KIDS. With an S. More than one. What a mind-blowing concept. I told my husband that I’m sure now that the new baby isn’t all in my imagination. My husband responds that he’s sure now that the baby isn’t just gas (a running joke for us). They let us sleep last night, my milk came in this morning and they are happy and I am happy. I think I like having kids. More than one. At least, it’s awfully nice while they’re both sleeping.