Kate Ainsley Jones was born at 4:40 a.m. on Monday, February 27, 2012. She was 4 days past her due date, and just under 5 hours too late to share her birthday with her Dad. She weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.5 inches long.
It is hard to know when it comes to “birth stories” how much to share. It was such a huge experience for me, but I get the impression that people don’t really care to hear the details. Which is fine–in the end, all that really matters is that a baby was born, she is healthy and now we get to love her and watch her grow. But I have found that I have been very emotional about the birth, and I hope writing it all out might help me sort it all out (and have record of it all so that I don’t forget!). So please, feel free to skip this post. I think its more for me than it is for anyone else.
As my doctor always said, my pregnancy was “perfect on paper.” I never had one health scare or incidence of high blood pressure. I gained just about the right amount of weight (although it was a little more than I would’ve preferred!), and every time he measured my belly, I was exactly “right on track” for whatever week I was. Her heartbeat was always great, she was very cooperative in her anatomy ultrasound and everything checked out perfectly. So I was extremely fortunate the whole way through.
I didn’t exactly enjoy pregnancy. I felt very, very sick and had zero energy the first trimester (although I never threw up, I was nauseous all day every day). And by my third trimester my feet were so swollen I started calling them “Shrek feet.” It scared and embarrassed me when they were so swollen (and just an FYI: you really don’t need to comment on a pregnant gal’s swollen feet. She doesn’t need you reminding her that they look awful.) I did love getting to feel her move in my belly though. She was my constant companion.
About three (or was it four?) weeks before my due date, I had my first examination to determine how far dilated/effaced I was. Even the doctor acted surprised that I was already dilated 3.5 cm and 50% effaced. He told me she could come anytime. The next doctor’s appointment I was 4 cm, 50% effaced. The next I was 4 cm, 75% effaced. I was pretty convinced she would be making an early appearance based on my numbers! So started the emotional rollercoaster ride: Could today be the day? Would she be a Valentine’s baby (we hoped not!)? Should we make plans to buy tickets to that concert or go to that event, since who knows, she may be born by then! Panic set in at work: maybe I didn’t have as long to get things done as I had originally thought! So I went into overdrive, working especially hard to get everything done early. At the end of every work day, I wrote out a “maternity leave” note and left it on my desk just in case I went into labor that night.
And then all the questions began. Every day people would act like they were surprised I was still pregnant. When my due date (2/23) finally did roll around, everyone seemed so disappointed and it made me feel like such a failure that I hadn’t gone into labor yet. I was a mess that day and probably shouldn’t have gone to work (but I didn’t want to start my maternity leave until the second she got here). I had to remind myself it is actually a wonderful blessing to be able to carry a baby to term.
Our doctor also acted like he couldn’t believe I hadn’t gone into labor early. On our last scheduled appointment (2/22), he asked what we would think of being induced on Leap Day (2/29), since he would be on-call that day. Nick and I had been saying all along that would be a really cool birthday, so we were all for it and scheduled the induction “just in case” she didn’t come on her own before then. So after she didn’t come on her due date (which we were sure she would since she had been such a “by-the-book” baby throughout the entire pregnancy), I just gave up on the thought that I would go into labor naturally. I was excited and ready for my Leap Day baby to arrive!
That Sunday (2/26) was Nick’s birthday, which was another cool day we had talked about her being born on. Nick was born on his aunt’s birthday, so Kate would’ve been the third generation. But I was pretty convinced I would not go into labor that day, so I didn’t even think of it much. We spent the day with his parents, then went to the Planetarium to see a show, then went grocery shopping so I could make dinner (I even planned the portions perfectly so there would be enough leftovers to get us through until the induction on Wednesday). While at the store, I ran into a friend who commiserated with me about being overdue. I cheerfully told her that it wouldn’t be long, I would be induced Wednesday. As we parted ways, she said “or you could go into labor tonight!” I laughed a little too hard as I walked away. Yeah right. Not happening tonight.
So we went home and I got to work trying out a new recipe for fish tacos. The recipe called for pineapple salsa. I vaguely remembered reading pineapple was a labor-inducer. I called out to Nick, “do you believe any of these foods they say can put you into labor actually work?” He emphatically told me, “no way, they are just old wives tales.”
After dinner, I noticed a little blood when I went to the restroom. This had happened off and on in the weeks prior (which was basically just a sign that I was dilating/effacing), but considering that I was past my due date and already at least 4 cm/75% effaced, it did make me suspect that labor could be starting. So I was on the alert for the rest of the night, but by about 10:45 had given up hope. I guess I would be going to work (and answering everyone’s “you’re still here?!” questions) again tomorrow. Nick was asleep on the couch, so I told him to get up so we could go to bed. I remember telling him as we headed to the bedroom, “Well I guess I’m not going into labor tonight either, but that’s fine. Leap Day is a much cooler birthday anyway, so she can just stay put until then!”
I brushed my teeth and then went to the bathroom one last time before bed. While I was sitting on the toilet I felt a definite pop, and then a gush of water. I was pretty sure my water just broke (and seriously, how lucky was I to be on the toilet when it happened!). I called out to Nick (who was already asleep in the bed) and told him I thought my water just broke. He mumbled something but didn’t take me too seriously (we had a lot of “I think this might be it” over the last couple of weeks, so he didn’t ever get too excited anymore). A few minutes later, I told him “I am serious. You need to get up and get ready to go to the hospital.”
Pretty much immediately after my water broke, contractions began. They felt like period cramps but really weren’t very intense on the pain scale. I think God knew what he was doing having my water break first, because I am not sure I would’ve recognized my contractions as labor pains otherwise. I had always expected them to be much worse.
I had taken a shower earlier so my hair was still wet, and me, being the crazy person that I am, decided that I had to blow dry it straight before we went to the hospital (otherwise it would dry poofy and look terrible in photos! Yes, I am aware how vain that sounds!). So I started to do that, thinking that this was just the start of labor and we would have plenty of time. As I did my hair, I timed the contractions. They were already four minutes apart, and the doctor had said to come in when they were five minutes apart. I better hurry!
The hardest part of this whole situation was watching Lucy. She had been all settled and ready for bed, and then all of a sudden Nick and I are rushing around, getting redressed and me blow drying my hair. She looked so confused and I hated to leave her alone for the night, especially knowing that such a big change was coming and she wouldn’t be our only “baby” anymore. Leaving her standing there so confused just broke my heart.
So, on the drive to the hospital, I was putting on makeup, and chatting lightheartedly with Nick as we timed the contractions, which were now three minutes apart. (This was probably 30 minutes since my water broke). I told him multiple times that I couldn’t believe I wasn’t in more pain. I had asked my mom a few months earlier “were your contractions like period cramps x100?” She told me, “I wouldn’t even say x100.” I am lucky to have inherited her pain tolerance, apparently, because I completely agree. Maybe it was a period cramp x10? But it wasn’t anything unmanageable.
By the time we got into triage, I was dilated to 6 cm and 100% effaced. They asked me if I was going to get an epidural. I said I would wait and see. They admitted me and we were taken to our delivery room. I labored for a little under four hours. They asked me one more time if I wanted the epidural, and I said the same answer: I would wait and see. They told me this would probably be my last chance, so I decided against getting it, because the pain was still manageable. At one point they asked me on a scale of 1-10 what my pain level was and I told them a 4. Near the end, it did get much more intense, and the nurse offered to put some pain medicine in my IV to take the edge off, so I accepted that. The main thing that was really bothering me was the urge to push and feeling like I wasn’t “allowed” to push just yet. Other than that, I just felt like no matter what position I was in, I could not get comfortable (the pain had settled in my back by this point and the only thing that felt moderately good was sitting up as straight as I could in the bed).
The doctor came in and I started pushing at about 3:15 a.m. Beforehand, I was never very worried about the pushing part. In all the episodes of A Baby Story (and I seriously think I might have seen them all) laboring through the contractions always seemed like the hard part, and pushing seemed to go relatively quickly. Oh my goodness, this was so not the case with me. I had no idea the pushing would be so hard! I felt like it was one step forward, two steps back every time I pushed. There is no telling how many times they told me “You’re doing great! We can see the head!” I wanted to be like, “Well then why isn’t this baby out yet?!” I had about an hour and a half of intense pushing, and finally, finally Kate was born. The umbilical cord was loosely wrapped around her neck twice, which the doctor couldn’t believe because she had never shown any signs of distress and her heart rate was always perfect.
Because she was four days late, there was some meconium present, so NICU was called in as a precaution (they knew this before she was born and had been waiting in the room while I pushed), so I wasn’t able to hold her right away since NICU immediately had to check her out. All was fine, so they left soon after. But the doctor could not get my uterus to contract back down (which stops the bleeding), so he had to keep massaging it (which meant pressing very, very hard on my already tender tummy). Uterine massage alone did not work, so he had to use a couple different medicines and more painful massaging before it finally contracted. This was the most painful part of the entire labor/delivery process, and later the doctor told me I lost about twice the amount of blood that most people do. It was traumatic for me because, not only was it extremely painful, but I also knew it wasn’t normal. And I could see my baby in the distance being cared for by the nurses, but because of my post-delivery complications I still had not gotten to see her up close or hold her. But in the end everything worked out and I finally was able to hold my beautiful baby girl. And all in all, I know I was extremely lucky to have such an easy labor process.
Since she has been here, we have been enjoying her for sure. We’ve had a couple of diaper blowouts (the most epic of which just took place about 30 minutes ago), but she has been a really good baby so far (knock on wood). She only really gets me up once a night (and then early the next morning!), and she is not very fussy at all. She also mastered the art of nursing right away. I feel like she was the one teaching me how to do it.
The biggest thing for me lately is my emotions. The first week after delivery, anytime I would get alone (read: not caring for baby) I would start crying thinking of the delivery. I can’t exactly put my finger on why (I am sure most of it just has to do with my hormones leveling back out), but I think part of it is that it was such a huge life event that I had prepared for not only over these last nine months, but all of my life. And it felt like such a whirlwind. It happened so fast, and so, so many of the details are fuzzy to me. I have asked Nick so many questions because I just can’t remember much about what happened. Its almost like I was drugged, even though I really wasn’t. I guess your body does that to you naturally to help you cope. I am not sure why it feels so important to me to remember every detail, but it really bothers me that I can’t. I feel like so much time and preparation built up to this moment, and it was over so quickly that it is almost like I didn’t get to really “experience” the labor the way I expected to.
I have also been emotional that my pregnancy is over, which is so strange, because as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t particularly enjoy pregnancy. It is so crazy how much more every symptom, every movement, and every pregnancy experience means now that I know the little girl that was moving around inside of me. When I was pregnant, she was all mine. Now I have to share her with the world, I have to be away from her at times, and it just kills me thinking that separation will only increase. Right now I can hold her nearly all hours of the day, but thinking about having to go back to work causes me to cry at least once a day. At least before I could sit at my desk and feel her moving in my belly all day, but when I go back I will be missing so much of her life every day. I have always, always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and I just wish that could be in the cards for me.
I also miss being taken care of. I know this is a really weird thing to be emotional about, but I really enjoyed the monthly, bi-weekly, and weekly doctors appointments. It was nice to feel like someone was looking out for me, was there to answer my questions and tell me everything was normal and going great. I looked forward to every appointment: getting to hear the heartbeat, measuring her growth, trying to predict when she would come. Again, this was the build up and excitement that came with pregnancy, and then it felt like in the blink of an eye, the “big event” was over and she was here. Do not get me wrong, I love, love, love having her here. But I miss the specialness and anticipation of being pregnant. I might have even gotten teary-eyed walking past the maternity clothes section in Target today. For so long, I was carrying something so special–it wasn’t just me, but “we.” Now I am just me again.
So whew, that is more than you ever wanted to know. But it helps to get it off my chest. Thank you for listening and goodnight.