As part of Discovery Channel’s Baby week two years ago, I wrote about my son’s delivery. This was a long, arduous vaginal birth of a huge 9 pound 8 ounce baby boy. Not all deliveries are traumatic or occur under extreme circumstances. My second birth went surprisingly smoothly, but that doesn’t make it any less of a miracle or the experience anything less than magical. Besides, Labor Day deserves a good labor story.
Because my son was so large, I was extra careful with diet during my second pregnancy with my daughter Dova. I was careful to gain on the low side of the requisite 25-35 pounds and watch my carbohydrate intake. At 36 weeks, an ultrasound was performed to determine how large the baby was. After measurements of the baby’s bone lengths as well as my belly, the doctor told us that she was only about 5 1/4 pounds at 25th percentile. What? A small baby? With four weeks to go, I felt that prognosis was a ticket to eat whatever I wanted until she arrived. Gotta fatten that baby up!
Dova’s due date was right on Christmas Day. Of course no one wants their child to be born on Christmas, and since I had a hand at “picking the day” with Adam, I thought that perhaps December 21st, or winter solstice, would be a nice date. But her birthday would prove to be an elusive target.
On December 1st, my doctor checked my progress and informed me that I was 2 cm dilated and that she could come any day. Already? For Adam, I was 2 cm dilated two days before he was born. I decided that I would let her cook some more and took it day by day. There were many holiday parties around this time, so every week, I would tell myself, “Don’t deliver yet, let’s get through this potluck, or so-and-so’s big shindig.” Nevertheless, I was careful to check in my software code at work every night, lest I make the same mistake I did with Adam.
I had wanted to work until my delivery as I had with Adam, but since I was due so close to the Christmas, my last day of work was Friday, December 19, 2003. We had a plan to drop Adam off at a friend’s house when my labor started and my mother would come to stay starting on Christmas Eve regardless of when the baby came.
In the early hours of December 21st, I woke up to contractions. It felt very much like the real labor contractions I had with Adam and it was the day I had “picked” to deliver. But then I thought, oh great, now I have to call my friend at 3 in the morning, wake up my husband Doug as well as my cranky 3-year-old son, get him settled at my friend’s house and then get to the hospital. Wouldn’t it just be easier to wait until my mom got here? Why don’t I just try to go back to sleep and see if the contractions go away?
And that’s exactly what I did. I went back to sleep and the contractions went away. Thinking back, I’m sure I would’ve delivered if I had gotten up and gone to the hospital. But somehow it wasn’t “convenient” in my mind and I made it go away. I had my final check-up on Monday, December 22nd and my obstetrician said that the baby would come any minute. I was about 4 cm dilated and the baby had dropped way down (seriously, I could almost touch her head, but I would never dare to). But “just in case” I hadn’t delivered by Friday, December 26th, I should probably come into the hospital for another check-up, since the regular office would be closed for the holiday.
My mom arrived as planned on December 24th, and we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day very quietly so as not to induce labor over the holiday. On December 26th, there were still no signs of labor contractions. I had a good friend who’s birthday fell on December 26th, and I thought that it would be nice if Dova were born on the same day. But nothing was going on!
I called my doctor in the morning of December 26th and we made an appointment for noon. I asked whether I should eat lunch, and my doctor told me to hold off “just in case”. Doug and I left Adam with Grandma, and we headed off to the hospital. It was very quiet at the hospital and we were seen in a delivery room. My doctor checked me and said that I was 5 cm dilated. She said, “Well, it doesn’t make sense to send you home at 5 cm, and she is a day overdue, so why don’t we just get her out now?”
“Now?” I asked, “but I don’t have my bag!” I was so convinced that “nothing was going on” that I hadn’t considered bringing the labor hospital bag with us.
“We have time”, my doctor said, “we can start the pitocin drip while your husband runs home and gets it.” So I settled in with an IV, monitoring straps around my belly and my Palm Zire 71. This was back in the days before the iPhone, and I was convinced that I could play this Matching Hearts game all through labor because it was completely hypnotic with its beautiful 3D graphics and soothing sounds. And it worked beautifully for a while, my contractions started and I was perfectly content through the pain by the bling bling blinging of the game.
At around 3pm, I was 7 cm dilated and Doug had not come back from his trip home. My doctor decided to hold off on breaking my water until he arrived. So I bling bling blinged some more on my Palm. The contractions were not bad at all and I thought that perhaps I could actually make it through labor naturally.
Doug arrived shortly, and I was excited to put my bag to use. One of things I packed was the CD and music score for Handel’s Messiah. It was Christmas time after all, and I loved to listen to the Messiah every year. Now I had the time to follow the score while enjoying the music since I wasn’t going anywhere.
My doctor broke my water, but there weren’t bucketfuls like I had with Adam. The doctor didn’t seem concerned, but she warned me that my contractions may become more painful. A few minutes later I knew exactly what she meant. The contractions had gone from dull, intense pressure to sharp, unbearable, I CAN’T TAKE IT! The matching hearts game wasn’t cutting it anymore. Since I was about 8 cm, it was my last chance for an epidural. Having had one for my previous labor, I said yes.
When the anesthesiologist arrived, the recording of the Messiah was still playing. The doctor noticed and said, “It sounds like I’m in church.” The epidural went in quickly as I bent over like a trooper. This time, the anesthetic immediately numbed the pain and I felt nothing at all from my mid section down. Afterward, there were a few doozy contractions where the nurses rushed in to check whether I was OK. But all was fine with me and the baby and Handel’s Messiah.
Around 6pm, Doug placed our dinner order. Given my last labor with the excessive vomiting, I didn’t think that I would be up for eating afterward. But my doctor urged me to place an order “just in case”. Doug actually wrote down our orders in his planner and was able to produce it for me. He had a tossed garden salad with Italian dressing, sautéed chicken marsala, whipped potato and sliced carrots, chocolate cake and 8 oz. skim milk. I ordered a cottage cheese salad with Italian dressing, chicken pot pie with corn, custard, and a fresh fruit medley with water to drink.
At this point, I was 10 cm dilated, but my doctor said that Doug should go ahead and eat before I started pushing. As I watched Doug eat, I thought that this delivery was so civilized that it seemed surreal. No urgency to push, it can wait until after dinner.
After everyone was finally ready for me to push, I knew that I would have an easier time than the three hours I had pushing 9 pound 8 ounce baby Adam. I half expected this baby to fall out with the first push, but she didn’t. On the third push, her head came out. My doctor said, “OK, you can stop pushing now.”
To which I replied, “I’m not pushing.” Next thing I knew the baby had slipped completely out. Was it possible that it was so easy? I looked at the beautiful healthy baby girl with huge head of hair and couldn’t believe that she was finally here. Her quick exit did leave me with a tear, but we were so happy to meet Dova that it didn’t matter. She arrived at 6:44pm after only 6 hours of labor.
They put her on the scale and she weighed in at 8 pounds 11 ounces. What?? Nearly 9 pounds? They said she was only 5 pounds four weeks ago! I seriously doubted that she gained a pound a week, so let that be a lesson to take the size measurements in utero with a grain of salt. Even if she did gain a pound a week, how likely would it be to move from 25th percentile to 80th percentile so quickly?
An hour after delivery, I felt fine and I ate my dinner. No vomiting? Actually eating a meal after delivery? Incredibly civilized. I couldn’t believe that the delivery went so smoothly. And I was especially glad that I got to experience an easier birth than the first one. We were all incredibly blessed. My friend who shares Dova’s birthday was also honored that we “picked” her day. Another lesson learned was to always listen to your doctor’s “just in case” suggestions. She proved right on the day to come to the hospital, holding off on lunch and ordering dinner.
Today, Dova is a healthy, happy seven-year-old in second grade. I especially love this photo as you can still see the resemblance to her beautiful newborn face. Every year around her birthday, I play Handel’s Messiah and retell how it was played during her labor. Hallelujah!
Contributing editor Angela blogs about her family at mommy bytes.
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