Between trying to get some sleep and taking care of a new baby I haven't had much time to work on the computer, so it's been awhile since my last post. The time I did manage to steal was spent working on this. My cousin told me I should write down the story of Abe’s birth before I start to forget all the details, and I figured there should be an accurate record somewhere that he can refer to, since I’m sure at some point in his life I’ll tell him “I was in labor with you for THREE days!!!” So without further ado, here it is…
The Story of Abraham’s Birth
Since I’ve had Type 1 diabetes most of my life, I knew from the start of my pregnancy that if this baby didn’t come on time my doctors would want to induce me. I went in for my last OB appointment on the Thursday before my due date and my doctor said we could either plan the delivery for Friday or Saturday. I asked if we could wait until Sunday (which was the official due date) just to give him a little extra time to decide if he wanted to come on his own. She said that would be fine and called the hospital to let them know I’d be coming in on Sunday.
So the plan was: the hospital would call between 4 and 6 am Sunday morning to let us know when to come in for the induction. My doctor said I would probably be first on the list at 7:00 am since they were inducing me for medical reasons. Noah and I decided we’d go to bed early Saturday night to rest up for the long day ahead.
We headed to bed around 8:00 pm and about two hours later I started having contractions. In our childbirth class they said that if you start laboring at night to try to get some rest, unfortunately it’s really hard to sleep when you’re awakened every few minutes by another contraction. Mine seemed fairly close together so I had Noah start timing them - 6 minutes, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 8 minutes… They didn’t seem to follow any pattern so it seemed like we’d have to wait quite awhile before going to the hospital, but then my blood sugar started dropping.
I called the hospital around 1:30 am because I was also shaking uncontrollably, which is sometimes a sign of severely low blood sugar. They told me to wait an hour to see if my contractions got more intense or closer together, and call them back. Noah and I went in the living room and I tried to rest. I tried lying on the couch, I tried sitting on the couch, I tried putting my feet up…I couldn’t get comfortable in any position so of course I couldn’t sleep. An hour later my contractions were more intense (or at least I imagined them to be), so we called the hospital and they told us to come on in.
We arrived around 3:00 am, already exhausted from lack of sleep, and the nurse checked my cervix to see how far along I was…3 cm (not much different from the 2-3 cm my doctor said I was at when I went in for my appointment two days earlier). They decided that since I was supposed to be induced that morning they would just keep me at the hospital. I was relieved that they weren’t going to send me home because I was badly in need of sleep, and to get that I was going to need some serious pain relief!
Now originally I had decided that unless I really needed it, I wasn’t going to get an epidural, but I knew we still had a long day ahead and the sheer exhaustion I was already feeling was going to make it hard. I also remembered Noah’s sister telling me that she had done it both ways, and the experience was more enjoyable when she had an epidural. I wanted to enjoy it…and remember it, so despite my initial fear of poking needles where they don’t belong, I told them I’d take one as soon as possible.
Our nurse, Karen, brought us to the delivery room and hooked me up to an IV. They needed to administer about 2 quarts of fluid before I could get the epidural, which seemed to take an agonizingly long time. About halfway through, Karen checked my cervix again which was now at 5 cm. (“Not bad,” I thought, “2 cm in under two hours. This is going to go quick!”) She sped up the drip on my IV so we could get the epidural going sooner. Around 6:00 am the anesthesiologist came in to administer the epidural. I started to feel the pain melt away almost immediately. I remember smiling at Noah and making a joke about something, and the worried look that had been on his face the whole time suddenly disappeared. We both fell asleep after that and slept soundly for a few hours at least.
The nurses changed shifts at 7:00 am so we had a new nurse, Laura, who took care of us throughout the day. I don’t even remember how we passed the time on Sunday. Most of that day is a blur for me. I drifted in and out of sleep as the pain came and went. Every hour or so I’d have to call the nurses in to help me roll over because the medication would settle on one side of my body and I’d start feeling contractions again on the other side. Also, the epidural makes you lose feeling in your legs, so my legs which were already swollen from being pregnant, now felt like they each weighed about 900 pounds, and hard as I tried to lift them, I couldn’t move an inch. I was also starving but all they would let me eat was ice chips. (I really don’t think a popsicle would have killed me.) When Laura came in to check my blood sugar, which was always low, I happily drank the apple juice she gave me, thinking maybe that would satisfy my hunger - it never did.
My mom and brother stopped by around noon on their way to the family reunion. I told them we still had a long way to go so they should head to the reunion and we’d call to let them know if they should head back. In the back of my mind I was thinking “they’ll probably be back around five…he should be here by then.” Later that afternoon, my sister called from the convent in Rhode Island to find out what was going on. She told me that they would be up until nine (7:00 our time), so I could call if he arrived before that, otherwise I’d have to wait until the next morning. I remember thinking “7:00 is when the nurses change shifts again. I’m sure he’ll come before Laura leaves.” When she finally did leave, Noah made a joke that maybe he wouldn’t come until the next day, and I said “He’d better come today. Tomorrow is still 5 hours away!!!”
I have no idea what time they came in to check me and said that I was at 6-7 cm, or how long I was stuck there. Eventually they gave me Pitocin to move things along. At one point, Laura had told me that once I got to 10 cm they’d probably have me “labor down” for an hour before I’d start pushing. Basically, they just wanted me to wait an hour so his head could move further down in the birth canal. At the time I said that would be fine, but once I reached 9 cm the epidural had worn off and I said there was no way I could wait an extra hour because I was ready to start pushing NOW!!! Unfortunately, I was stuck again at 9 cm and the Pitocin wasn’t helping anymore. They ended up giving me a second dose of the epidural and I fell asleep again after that.
When I woke up we had a new nurse, Kate, and she was determined to get this baby delivered. I was still at 9 cm and after checking the baby’s position she found that he was “sunny-side up” so the widest part of his skull wasn’t hitting my cervix the way it should, which was why things were moving so slowly. We waited awhile longer, then a little after 10:00 pm she checked me again. I was still at 9 cm. On the next contraction she had me start pushing as she carefully stretched the cervix around his head. It worked, and he was finally ready to come!
In the end it only took an hour and a half of intense pushing to finally get him out. (At one point I was pushing so hard, I thought I popped a blood vessel in my eyeball. I looked up at Noah because I was sure he’d react if my eyeball was suddenly bright red, and when he didn’t react I figured either my eye was fine or he just wasn’t paying attention.) At one point, I asked the doctors if the baby's head was crowning yet and they said “Yes, he’s almost out!” Then they said I could feel his head if I wanted to. It was weird to feel a small round head covered in soft fuzzy hair when I couldn’t even hear the baby crying yet. Once I felt that head though I was ready to meet him! Just a few more pushes and he was born. His official time of birth: 12:09 am on August 23rd - after being in labor for 26 hours!
His body was much longer than I expected and his head was totally misshapen from being in the birth canal for so long. They put him on my chest for just a few seconds and then took him over to the warmer to suction out his lungs and get him cleaned up. I remember lying there, totally exhausted, and all I could do was stare at my baby laying in the warmer on the other side of the room. Noah kept going back and forth between me and the baby, checking to see how he was doing and then coming back to check on me. It seemed to take them forever to get him weighed and measured. Eventually the nurse told us he was 23 ½ inches long, but she subtracted an inch figuring he’d lose a little length as his head rounded out. The last thing she did before bringing him back to me was weigh him - 9 pounds 3 ounces!
After everyone else had left, I remember laying there with Abe on my chest just staring at his perfect face as he made sweet little baby noises and grasped my finger with his tiny hand. Whenever I think about that moment it makes me cry. It seems like that was my one chance to hold my newborn, after that he immediately started growing up and hasn’t stopped since.
If I could do it all over again I would bring a video camera (or try to remember that we had one!) to try to capture those first few hours forever. I wasn’t even awake enough that first day to get any pictures of Abe! The only picture we have from the day he was born is a blurry one that Noah took, in the middle of the night when the room was dark, of Abe lying in his crib with his eyes wide open - waiting to meet the world.