The name Jonathan means “God has given” or “gift of God.” God most certainly has given us more blessings than we can count! We’ve been blessed through every step of my pregnancy through delivery and in the days following. Here’s my account of the story of little Johnny’s birth.
Friday, December 19, 2008
As I drove Shane to the park-and-ride lot to catch the bus for work, we noted the date: December 19. Months ago, we had decided the 19th seemed the most ideal day for me to go into labor. I’d be far enough along in my pregnancy to expect a healthy, full-term baby (I was 38 weeks and 3 days on the 19th), it was a few days before Christmas, and thanks to weekends, Christmas and his remaining vacation time, Shane would have the maximum amount of paid time off he could get. Not to mention, it would still be 2008 and we’d be able to claim our baby on our 2008 taxes.
But do babies actually come on their own when it’s most convenient for everyone? Apparently, some do.
I had no real indication that I was about to go into labor. I’d been having mild contractions on and off for the past week, but that’s it.
“I don’t think we’re going to have a baby this weekend,” I told my husband. “Maybe tonight we can go out to eat, and tomorrow we can walk around at the mall.”
He thought that sounded like a reasonable plan, and kissed me good-bye as he stepped out of the car.
I returned home and fixed a bowl of rice krispies. I opened my laptop and started reading others’ birth stories. Each story was different from the last, and I wondered how my labor would go.
I felt tired and thought it would be a good idea to take a nap.
11 a.m. – Water, water everywhere we’re gonna get wet
I woke up to use the bathroom. Still sleepy, I climbed back into bed and that’s when it happened.
I felt a gush of liquid escape.
“I know I didn’t just pee my pants,” I thought. After all, I had just emptied my bladder. It wasn’t much fluid, maybe a tablespoon or two, but I thought I’d better call my midwife to get her opinion.
While waiting for her call back, I emptied the dishwasher and tried to declutter the apartment as best as I could, in case this was really it.
An hour later, the midwives’ nurse called and I described the first gush and explained I had a few more since then. She wanted me to come in to be checked out, and suggested I have Shane come home since I might not be leaving the hospital without a baby.
Noon – We’re having a baby, my baby and me – Desi Arnaz
I called Shane. We typically chat during his lunch hour, but usually our calls are toward the end of his break.
“Hey, honey. We’re having a baby this weekend.”
“Haha, are you serious? I thought that’s why you were calling now. What’s happening?”
“I think my water broke and they want me to come in and get checked out. Can you be on the next bus back home?”
I looked online to find the bus schedules and told him when the next one would be along. He typed a quick e-mail to his co-workers and flew out the door toward the bus stop. He called a few minutes later. Gasping for air, he had just missed the bus. He would have to wait 10 more minutes in the pouring rain for another to be along.
I fixed a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of Ovaltine. I certainly didn’t feel like I was in labor as I only had intermittent, painless contractions. I wanted to take my time getting to the hospital since I knew that my labor could be much slower there.
Shane arrived, looking exhilarated. He changed out of his work clothes and ate his lunch while I finished throwing last-minute items together.
I fired off an e-mail and texted friends and family to let them know what was happening and to ask for prayers.
One text: “Water broke! Probably having a baby soon. Heading to hosp in a little. Pray for us!” and I sent it on its way. I thought one of the recipients was my Aunt Stacy.
I was puzzled when she sent this response “My prayers and thoughts r with u even though i don’t remember who u r.”
I was like…this is Kacie! Your sister’s daughter! And I was confused, because how many full-term pregnant ladies did she know anyway?
Turns out, I had the wrong number. I was texting a guy named Tony, who lives in Jasper, Ind. Oh. Whoops! It was nice of him to pray for me anyway.
1:45 p.m. – Little St. Nick – Beach Boys
We headed out the door and were happy to discover that the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. I was singing along to the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” on the radio. This was not how I imagined our trip to the hospital. We were both calm, it wasn’t rush hour, a Steelers game or bad weather. One of the many things I prayed for was an unstressful trip to the hospital — and we got exactly that.
2:30 p.m. – Peace of mind – Boston
I went in for an exam, and midwife Emily confirmed that I was leaking amniotic fluid — “beautiful fluid,” she called it, whatever that means. My blood pressure was a bit high for me. She hooked me up to the fetal monitors to watch the baby’s heartbeat and contractions (that I wasn’t really having).
Things looked good and we discussed our options. We could go home and wait for contractions to become regular and frequent. Or, we could hang around in the general area and encourage things along around 5 p.m., which was six hours after the fluid started leaking.
Throughout the last half of my pregnancy, I had been preparing for a natural, unmedicated childbirth. And now, those plans were quickly being replaced with talks of induction.
Emily cautioned us about the risks of waiting too long to deliver once the amniotic fluid was ruptured. We were risking infection and my fluid levels getting too low, which can cause distress for the baby.
I initially wanted to avoid an induction, since I knew that it might not work and I’d be increasing my risk of a c-section. However, I knew that with my water breaking, we were officially in it to win it, and time was not on our side anymore.
I felt at peace with the induction.
Emily suggested misoprostol, which I vetoed. This pill (brand name Cytotec) is the one medicine I absolutely refused. A drug for the treatment of ulcers, some obstetricians and midwives are using it off-label to jump-start contractions. The problem? The pill has to be cut, so you don’t know the exact dose you’ll get. There is no standard dose to give pregnant women anyway. Once it’s placed on the cervix, there’s no stopping it. Many women handle it just fine. But, there is a risk of uterine rupture, among other things. That’s a death sentence for baby, and possibly mom as well.
So, no thanks. No misoprostol for me. What else can we try?
Emily was understanding.
Shane and I walked to Panera Bread for one last meal out as a family of two. Looks like we were able to go out to eat that evening after all! I had a cup of french onion soup and a half of a ham and swiss sandwich. Shane had the chipotle chicken sandwich. Oh, and I had a Pepsi. I avoided soft drinks throughout my pregnancy, but on this night I wanted caffeine.
We munched our dinner, digesting the realization that we would be parents within a day or less.
I started to notice some contractions, and I kept my eye on the clock to see if there was any pattern to them. They were about five minutes apart. I could easily talk and eat through them, as they were only slightly uncomfortable and not at all painful.
5 p.m. – All I want for Christmas is you- Love, Actually soundtrack
We power-walked our way back to the hospital, making a quick stop at the car to pick up our bags. We had one for Shane’s clothes, one for mine, one for the baby’s, a bag of snacks, a laptop, camera, three DVDs, and a partridge in a pear tree.
I thought my labor would be a bit slow, hence the movies. We brought Blues Brothers, Love Actually, and School of Rock. Heh. We never watched them.
I was a direct admit into the labor suites, meaning I didn’t have to hang out at triage until labor got going. That was nice. I requested a room with a whirlpool tub, and they sent me on my way to labor suite six.
6 p.m. – I feel fine – The Beatles
I traded my comfy sweats for a stylish hospital gown and climbed into bed so I could give blood samples and have my heplock inserted. The fetal monitors were strapped to my belly to keep watch on the baby’s heartbeat and my contractions.
Contractions were coming at about every four minutes and were lasting 60 to 90 seconds. I know this because that’s what the monitor showed — I barely noticed these contractions. If I was at home, I doubt I would have paid much attention to them.
My blood pressure crept up. I blamed nerves. They took my blood pressure again, this time with me in a new position and with my free hand holding Shane’s. It was lower this time, though still higher than they’d like.
7 p.m. – You make me feel like a natural woman – Aretha Franklin
Midwife Emily checked my progress. My cervix was so high that she had trouble reaching it. She concluded that I was 0 cm dilated and perhaps 50 percent effaced. The baby was around -1 station. She started the Cervidil.
They had me stay in bed for one hour while they monitored me. Shane and I thought it would be a good idea to try to take a nap. We were unable to sleep.
I didn’t realize that with the Cervidil in place, I’d have continuous fetal monitoring. The nurses kindly switched me from the regular fetal monitors to the mobile one, and after that first hour was up, I tried to move around some.
My blood pressure was still high, and they wanted a urine sample to check for protein. Because my fluid was leaking (and it contains protein, apparently), they wanted to use a catheter. That sounded so unpleasant to me, so I asked if I could try to do a clean catch. Emily agreed it was worth a shot.
I stayed in the bathroom and turned on the shower. It felt great, and by that point I was running the sprayer over my belly during contractions. It helped so much. Contractions were stronger now and I had to relax and breathe through them. I leaned on Shane and he supported my weight while I held the sprayer on my belly.
He squatted at my side, trying to balance his weight and support me.
I got sick, but luckily had my little vomit bucket handy. I choked and I was afraid I would have another contraction before clearing my airway. I don’t know what happens if you contract while choking. I think you explode.
I was fine, but my antics caused the monitors to go nuts and the nurse made me get out of the tub.
I compromised by sitting on the potty and leaning over Shane during the contractions that followed.
11 p.m. – Stand by me – The Temptations
Shane’s cell phone rang.
“DO NOT ANSWER IT,” I growled as another contraction demanded our full concentration.
The nurse popped her head into the bathroom to let us know that there was protein in my sample, so they had to do a catheter anyway. Unpleasant!!
Saturday, December 20, 2008
1 a.m.- Surely the presence- hymn
The second sample came back with protein in it. Hey, whaddya know, I had developed preeclampsia. The protein count was at 330, and preeclampsia is defined at being around 300, I believe. We had a little complication on our hands.
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related condition that can be quite serious for mom and baby. It shows up in about 5 to 7 percent of pregnancies, and no one is certain of its cause. Its signs include elevated blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling of the extremities. The protein in the urine is because the lining of blood vessels are damaged.
This illness can lead to a lower birthweight and restricted nutrition in baby. It can also cause seizures and lung, liver and kidney failure in the mother. Lovely, right?
My case of preeclampsia was mild. But, it had come about rather rapidly, and it could get worse fast. The only cure is getting the baby out. I am so fortunate that I was already full-term and in labor by the time this was discovered.
Looking back, I could see signs of the preeclampsia developing. On Thursday the 18th, my blood pressure was slightly high, which was unusual for me. My hands were slightly swollen, as was my face. But, I wasn’t spilling protein at that checkup.
Back in bed I went, this time for good. They connected my heplock to an IV of magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures.
Contractions were strong and coming every two minutes. By this point, I was moaning “Ohhh” in a low tone during each contraction. I think it helped. At the very least, it showed the nurses that I was contracting, and not to talk to me until I was done.
My body tensed. I fought to relax each muscle so that my energy wouldn’t be wasted and my pain would be minimized. Eyes closed, one hand gripped Shane’s and the other rested along the bed rail.
I tried to take my mind off the pain by silently praying and singing hymns in my mind:
“Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place/ I can feel His mighty power and His grace / I can hear the brush of angel’s wings/ I see glory on each face/ Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place…”
My heart sang. This calming hymn was slow and comforting. By the time I would finish, the peak of the contraction had passed and the pain melted away.
Emily checked my progress, and I was disappointed to find out I was only at 4 cm dilated. I was certain that I would be much further than that, given the intensity and frequency of the contractions.
I started to wonder if I could really get through this, since I had no idea how much longer it would be, or how much harder it would get. Shane reminded me to focus on one contraction at a time, and that I was doing a good job.
2:50 a.m. – Don’t stop believin’ – Journey
I was at about 6.5 to 7 cm and the contractions were one on top of another. I was in transition, which is generally known as the roughest, most painful part of labor. I started saying things like, “I think I want an epidural,” and “I can’t do this for much longer,” etc. I felt intense contractions in my lower abdomen and the pain wrapped around my body to my lower back. Shane applied counter pressure by pressing hard on my back, which helped some. But oh man, ow! It hurt. A lot.
“Do you want pain medication?” the nurse asked.
“I dunno. I just want to get the baby out,” I said.
Between contractions the pain went away. That’s what made it tolerable — a little break in between! My positioning was limited since I was tethered to the IV. I found it most comfortable to lay on my left side. Shane didn’t have to support my weight, and he breathed with me and told me to relax my face, shoulders and fists. Sometimes he’d have to repeat himself until I did it. Consciously relaxing really did help.
When I started talking about epidurals, Shane reminded me that my labor was progressing fast, so that’s why the contractions were coming so fast and so intensely. He and the med staff told me that it would be over soon. Shane reminded me of Johnny and that we were doing this all for him. I couldn’t have gotten through labor without him!
Looking back, I don’t see how I could have had an epidural. The contractions were so close, there was no way I could hold still long enough. And by the time they would have gotten it administered and for it to take hold, I likely would have been pushing anyway. For me, talking about that epidural was one huge sign that we were almost done.
My contractions started to space out. In the back of my mind, I knew that this meant I’d be pushing soon.
3:38 a.m. IT’S PEANUTBUTTER JELLY TIME!
My body started pushing with contractions.
Shane noticed me tensing up and could tell what I was up to. It didn’t feel like I had to poop, as some people describe it. It just felt like I had to push, and my body was going to do that whether I was ready or not!
I could feel the Cervidil come out.
“Stop pushing!” he told me.
“Whatever! I can’t!”
“Nurse! She’s pushing!”
Labor nurse Karin hit a button on the wall, and the room rapidly shifted from “labor” to “delivery.”
I was still laying on my side, with my back toward the main part of the room. When I turned and looked to see what was happening, I felt as if we had been transported to another room.
Dressed in scrubs, Emily took a seat in the catcher’s position. They took apart part of my bed (with me still on it), removing the foot half. A light, previously hidden, descended from the ceiling.
“Look, Kacie! They have the bassinet all ready for your baby!” Karin told me.
I looked over to see two pediatricians taking their position near it.
Suzanna, a kind pediatrician who stopped to chat with me earlier in the evening, had also returned. She hadn’t yet observed an epidural-free delivery and wanted to see one. She had attempted an unmedicated delivery herself, but she ended up going for that epi.
Push time. Emily discovered that I was completely dilated (which I figured I was) and the baby was at +3 station. That made me really excited and I forgot all about that epidural!
Somewhere around that time, they gave me an oxygen mask. I don’t know if the baby was acting funny or what the deal was.
I stayed in the side-lying position. Karin supported my right leg as I pushed with the contractions. After a few pushes, we could tell this position wasn’t going to be the most effective.
I didn’t feel like moving, but I did want to get the baby out. I ended up in the 45-degree angle reclined pose, and Shane supported one leg while Karin held the other. Karin taught me how to push.
We waited for the next contraction.
“Here it comes!” I announced, feeling my abdomen tighten.
Shane and Karin got into position.
“Take a deep breath, then let it out,” Karin directed. “Take another, now hold it and push! Bear down like you’re having the biggest bowel movement of your life!”
Now, I’ve got to say that I’m an experienced BMer. I’ve dealt with all sorts of BMs. In a vague way, pushing out my baby felt like I was having a massive BM. But mostly, it felt like I was pushing out a baby.
I was able to get three good pushes in per contraction. Shane counted aloud how long I pushed, which was helpful to me.
When I worked with my body and pushed with those contractions, I felt no pain. I felt extreme pressure, but no pain. Isn’t that something? It only hurt if I wasn’t giving it a good heave-ho with my pushing muscles.
I could feel the difference between a good-effort push and a so-so one. With the strong pushes, I could feel my baby slowly work his way out. Emily, Karin and Shane could also tell, and encouraged me along.
“Your baby has hair!” Emily told me. My next push was much stronger.
“What do you think?” I asked her between contractions.
“What do I think about what?”
“What do you think about how this is going?” I asked.
“I think you have just a few more pushes before meeting your baby!”
I rallied my strength and concentrated all my energy on getting my baby out. I loved being pregnant, but I knew I’d love being my son’s mom even more. It was time to meet the little guy who had been kicking my ribs for so many months.
Another breath, another push.
“It burns!” I hollered. I was aware that this burning sensation, or “ring of fire” as it’s sometimes called, meant that the baby was crowning. He was almost out!
I leaned back on the bed, resting and waiting for the next contraction.
“I bet he’s born by 4:21,” I heard Karin say to someone else.
“Oh yeah? What time is it?” I wanted to know.
No way. How did it get to be 4 a.m. on Saturday? Shane and I had lost all concept of time.
I needed a little more time than Karin predicted.
Our final contraction. I took a breath and pushed with everything I had.
A head! A head was out!
“One more push, Kacie! Push now!”
Even though my contraction was over, I pushed once more.
4:24 a.m. Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
Jonathan was here!
In one motion, Emily placed my son on my belly. He “bit” her finger with his gums as she suctioned fluid from his mouth.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Screaming, covered in goo and just a little bit blue, he was the most incredible thing I had ever seen.
“Happy birthday, Baby!” I whispered. “Welcome to your life!”
Emily says I pushed for about 46 minutes, but it didn’t feel that long to me.
Emily handed Pittsburgh’s newest father some scissors, and Shane cut Jonathan’s umbilical cord.
We originally wanted to wait to cut the cord until it stopped pulsing, but because of my preeclampsia, the pediatricians wanted the cord cut and the baby evaluated sooner.
The doctors examined and weighed my baby, and I was surprised to hear he was only 6 pounds 5 ounces. He felt a lot bigger on the way out!
Shane went to stand near our son while Emily collected Jonathan’s cord blood for public donation.
A few little pushes, and out came the placenta. Bye!
I looked over at Jonathan, who was still naked and screaming. The kid had the biggest feet!
He was perfectly healthy, and they bundled him up and placed him in Shane’s arms. He brought him over so I could get a better look while Emily stitched my second-degree tear.
Shane and I looked at our child, staring into his beautiful face and feeling overwhelmed with emotion. We had done it. We had given birth to a healthy baby boy, and without pain medication. It was a total group effort — Shane, Johnny, myself and the medical staff. And God. God was there every step of the way.
A new life entered the world that day, bringing with him new parents, new grandparents, aunts and uncles — and a whole lot of joy.