Well this post is long overdue! Many of you follow me on facebook and instagram, so you by now have seen the news, but for the rest of you: we had a baby girl! Hattie Lou Ide was born on July 31st, after a pretty trying ordeal. I thought I would use this space to write about my birth experience.
My original due date was July 20th, and my mom arrived a week before that to be here for the last days of pregnancy, and to help welcome our new baby into the world. Mom was a labor and delivery nurse for many years, so I was grateful that she was able to come be with me. Although you’d think that all of that experience would have altered her travel plans a bit…my baby was definitely not ready to come out on the due date, which is really common with first babies! Poor mom had to adjust her flights, car rental, apartment rental, etc. in order to stay long enough for the main event!
We spent the last weeks of my pregnancy walking a LOT, trying to stay cool, and enjoying each other’s company. Finally on July 29th I felt like I was having some early signs of labor. My midwife suggested castor oil to speed things along. A couple hours after taking the castor oil, my labor started in full force. And when I say full force, I mean FULL FORCE. My contractions came on at two minutes apart, and were lasting two minutes or more. The midwife told us not to come in to the birth center yet, as those types of contractions (while painful!) aren’t doing much to motivate baby. From 8pm until 1am I labored at home. Finally the contractions were timing right and we drove over to the birth center.
Forgive me for my hazy memory, but labor is so intense (as many of you have undoubtedly experienced) that a lot of the details slip through the cracks! What follows is a combination of my memories and bits and pieces I have picked up through Andrew and other observers retelling the story. I labored at the birth center from 1am until 5am, mostly in the warm tub. Finally my midwife asked me to get out so she could check my progress. I hadn’t progressed much (I think I was around 5 cm) so she decided to break my water in an attempt to get things moving. Unfortunately when she did that, a large quantity of meconium poured out. Meconium is the result of baby defecating in utero, which is generally a sign of distress. And since it is something that can get into baby’s lungs when he or she takes the first breath, moms that have meconium are automatically transferred to the hospital for extra precaution. At this point I had to say goodbye to my preferred delivery plan of the lovely water birth in the cozy birth center, and we took a little drive to the nearby hospital.
I have no memory of the drive over, but I do remember the lady at the check in counter telling me not to have my baby at her desk! At this point I didn’t have much of my sense of humor still intact, so I mostly remember being annoyed at her comment. Heads up: you do not want to annoy a woman in labor. Fortunately we were quickly put into a room and I wasted no time getting back into the warm (though considerably smaller) bathtub. At this point my contractions were so intense! All I could do was chant “ommmmmmm” along with Andrew with each contraction, which were still two minutes apart. If you’re keeping track, this means I was in full labor mode for nine hours at this point. I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before, and I was feeling pretty weak, not to mention exhausted!
After another five or six hours of labor like this at the hospital, my progress was checked again. I had only gained another centimeter or so of dilation, and was nowhere close to pushing. At this point I threw in the towel and opted for the epidural. I knew I couldn’t continue on with the contractions for much longer without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. When the anesthesiologist arrived and proceeded to insert a very long needle into my spine, poor Andrew turned ghost white and was forced to lie down and regain his composure. And here I thought I was the one feeling weak!
I’m not quite sure on the order of events once I received the epidural. I was in and out of sleep at this point; my body finally had a chance to recuperate. I can tell you that it is very surreal to be in the most significant pain of your life and then suddenly: nothing. My body was still going through all the intense motions of labor, just now without any sensation. At some point there became some concern about two things: the strength of my contractions, and the baby’s heart rate. I can’t know for sure if the epidural led to either of these concerns, but regardless things started changing rapidly. I was put on an IV drip of Pitocin, a hormone that increases the strength of contractions. But unfortunately after each contraction my baby’s heart rate was dropping, which is worrisome. So they sloooooowly increased the Pitocin drip over the next several hours, hoping to get my contractions strong enough to fully dilate my cervix without further stressing the baby.
At this point I had quite a troupe in my room with me. There was Andrew, my mom, Andrew’s sister Bethany, the nurse, two midwives, occasionally the charge nurse, and the OBGYN popped in from time to time. I’m sure I’m missing a few other players, but you get the idea! The OBGYN was a very nice woman named Dr. Sok, and she came in to tell me that at some point we would have to consider a C-section, but that she was willing to wait as long as possible since I was really hoping for a vaginal delivery. Finally at around midnight I was fully dilated and was told I could push! Again for those of you keeping track at home: that’s a whopping 28 hours of active labor!
Have you ever tried to push something out of our body while simultaneously being completely numb? Unless you’ve been through this exact experience I’m going to guess not. You can assume that this is a very difficult task indeed! Especially with very little sleep and no food for over 24 hours. Despite these challenges, I was told I was a strong pusher! At the peak of every contraction the midwife would tell me to push. All of the people around my bed would hold my legs up (since they were totally paralyzed), and I would bear down as hard as I could, twice for each contraction. We did this for a while before the midwife decided to “go in” and see what the progress was. Unfortunately this is where things got even worse. She could just feel the tip of baby’s head, but couldn’t tell what direction it was in, and it didn’t seem very far into my pelvis yet. After each push the baby’s heart rate was dropping, and by now the baby’s resting heart rate was actually higher than normal, so it was obvious baby was stressed. I was allowed to push for two hours like this, before we all decided that the best possible thing was to get baby out immediately to reduce further stress on us both.
I was of course disappointed, but I always knew in the back of my mind that a C-section was possible, and that it exists for a reason. This was no convenience surgery scheduled so my doctor could make a golf tournament! This was do-or-die. So I was wheeled into the operating room with Andrew at my side. My anesthesiologist was the absolute sweetest man, and he stayed by my head the whole time and gently explained what was going on. I was beyond exhausted at this point, so I was slipping in and out of sleep. What I do remember hearing is Dr. Sok exclaiming, “Wow! Your abs still look really great!” (much to my surprise), and then some mumbling as things got a bit complicated.
It turns out that our baby was stuck. Like REALLY stuck. The head was wedged into my pelvis, and while usually they try to do a gentle C-section and quietly pull baby out head first, Dr. Sok realized that wasn’t going to happen and had to yank the baby out feet first! At this point they quickly asked Andrew to identify the sex: A GIRL! Then it was obvious something was wrong, because Andrew looked very worried and they whisked our baby over to a little station where nurses surrounded her and I couldn’t see a thing. I should have been dying from fear, but I was so exhausted I just remember still slipping in and out of sleep. At some point I did ask someone to explain what they were doing. I don’t remember what they said, but later I learned that when they pulled our baby out, she was limp and barely breathing.
The Apgar score is a test that is done on babies one minute after birth and then five minutes after birth to see how well baby tolerated the process. The score range is 0-10, with 0 being stillborn and 10 being healthiest possible. Our baby’s first Apgar was a 1. This is terrifying after the fact, although at the time I don’t think they told us this. I only know that they were able to completely revive her without having to take her to the NICU. Finally they brought her over to us, and placed her on my chest for our first contact and her first attempt at nursing.
Hattie Lou Ide was born on July 31st at 3:11 AM after a most dramatic and powerful experience. This only seems appropriate, since she was named for the two strongest women we’ve ever known: my grandmother and Andrew’s mother. Hattie is a variation of Harriet and Henrietta, as was my grandmother’s given name of Hendrina (though she went by Hindy). All of these variations mean the same thing: “ruler of the house” and that’s no joke. Andrew’s mother’s name was Nancy, but for some reason one of the nicknames her husband had for her was Lou (and sometimes Lewis), and I always thought that was cute and endearing. And so she was named for a woman who survived the holocaust and lived joyfully until the age of 92, and another woman who died too young after battling intensely painful cancer, but is remembered for her strength and a heart overflowing with love.
We don’t know much about Hattie’s personality yet, it will take some time for us to get to know her. The only thing we’re certain of is that she’s a fighter just like her Great Grandma and Mamaw before her, and for that we couldn’t be more proud.