January 12, 2017

John Hall's Birth Story

At 9:07am on February 5, 2016 John Hawley Slaton joined our family. On February 10, I said I'd write his birth story "soon." I suppose "soon" is relative. 

If you're not interested in birth stories or any sort of medical talk, skip this post. 

John Hall, much like Ibbie, was so, so comfortable inside. My due date, February 1, came and went. Knowing that it was effective with the girls, my OB stripped my membranes on February 2. I was crampy immediately after and the next day but it all settled down by the morning of February 4. Then the afternoon came. After running around with my mom and the girls all day, I started having irregular, strong contractions. When Peter got home from work, I told him, "We may or may not be having a baby tonight. I can't tell yet." So parked myself on the couch to watch some TV while he and my mom put the girls down.  By 11:00, we decided to head to the hospital.

Unlike the hospital where the girls were born, our hospital in Delaware required a visit Triage before heading on to Labor & Delivery.  In Triage, the nurse asked about my pain plan to which I replied, "Nothing. I mean, breathing. I have a doula." She laughed then checked my progress and monitored the baby.

So about the doula: I hired her on something of a whim. I loved my epidurals. Peter came home from work one day and I welcomed him with, "Hey, so I think I'm going to go natural with this baby. I hired a doula today." My thinking was that Cole and Ibbie both arrived quickly and if John Hall came any more quickly than a natural delivery may be my only option. Also, thinking back on Ibbie's birth, which required vacuum assistance and during which Dr. Miller told me, "I can give you five pushes to get this baby out and then we're going to Section. We're prepping an OR now." I remember feeling a bit helpless since I couldn't feel the pushing. So with those two thoughts in mind, I decided I'd plan on an unmedicated birth and hire a doula. My doula came to the house a couple of times to hear about our birth history and goals for this birth. Late in my pregnancy, we took a class at the Birth Center called "Childbirth Education for the Planned Hospital Birth" with a whole bunch of first time moms and some of our dearest friends were who were also pregnant with their third child. We stood out.

Back in Triage, we learned I was 5cm and that John Hall wasn't doing as well as the nurse would have liked. We were held in Triage for an hour so that John Hall could be monitored. When we were moved to Labor & Delivery around 12:30, we learned that because of John Hall's heart rate I was going to have to stay in the bed for a while so they could monitor him.  My doula arrived around 1:00 after a much needed power nap. After 40 minutes of monitoring, the nurse told me I could be unmonitored for 20 minutes. I walked around, used the bathroom, and chatted with Peter and my doula. The 40 monitored/20 unmonitored continued for a couple of hours before the staff felt comfortable to allow me 20 monitored/40 unmonitored.

My doula encouraged me to listen to music, use the bathroom, and take showers, she'd rub my back and help Peter help me. She also asked me if I wanted to lower the lights - about four times. I didn't. I suspect I was an atypical client. This became very evident when I'd carry on in-person and text conversations through contractions. She was  helpful in reminding me that each contraction was bringing us closer to our baby and that laboring in my face was useless so I should try to relax.

I progressed much more slowly with John Hall than with the girls. Thanks to shift changes, I was attended to by two doctors and four nurses.  At 7:00, my OB came by. He checked my progress and broke my water. I was 8cm at the time and John Hall was still high. After my water broke, John Hall's heart rate dropped and the doctor told me I was done getting up because the fetal heart rate monitor needed to stay on. Around 8:30, after I'd secured Cole's carpool to preschool, my doctor introduced me to an ER doctor training in L&D and told me it was time to push even though John Hall was still high. Eventually, of course, John Hall did drop. Since I was unmedicated, I was pushing with the rhythm of the contractions as they came. After being up all night, I was wiped from the exertion.  At one point I huffed, "I can't do this." I was immediately assured by Peter, my doula, my doctors and nurses that I could.

After 9 hours of quiet labor, it was time to get the baby out and turn up the volume. Two loud pushes later,  John Hall emerged making his own noise. He was immediately placed on my chest for an hour and a half of skin-to-skin, which is standard at the hospital.  The doctors debriefed while I was holding him and I heard the training doctor say, "I'm surprised that didn't end up a Cesarean." And my doctor replied, "I am too." which validated my efforts toward an unmedicated birth.

I should note, I still loved my epidurals. And I remembered them fondly as I felt every single one of the stitches. As is the standard at the hospital, I was given an IV bag with Pitocin after the delivery to encourage contractions and the delivery my placenta. Those contractions and the subsequent shoving on my deflated abdomen were something more than unpleasant.

At no point during our stay in the hospital was John Hall away from us. We moved together to a Recovery Room where we stayed for another two nights thanks to his bilirubin scores.

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