Our daughter Claire was born on July 16, 2015, at 9:05 PM Central time, weighing 7 lbs 3.3 oz and measuring 19.5 inches long. Here’s the story of how she entered the world.
The weeks leading up to “D-Day” During the last month of pregnancy, you’re typically supposed to go to the OB/GYN every week. My doctor was on vacation, and then had backed-up appointments, so I went about 3 weeks in June without an appointment. Thankfully, my pregnancy was normal with no complications, so there were no issues that we needed to monitor.
I went in for an appointment on Tuesday, June 30. The nurse took my blood pressure, listened to the baby’s heart beat, and checked my urine. All good. Then Dr. Whitlock came in and did an cervical exam for the first time. I was not a fan. She said I was 1 centimeter dilated. At this point, I was about 2 weeks away from my due date (July 15), so we were getting close anyway, but being dilated made it real that a baby was going to come out soon!
That afternoon, I taught my last dance classes for the summer, and I was moderately freaked out by the dilation news. I told one of the studio owners and a fellow teacher that I was dilated, and they had to tell me to “stop rubbing your hands together!” because I was getting nervous!
The next week, I went to lunch with my friend Melody before my afternoon appointment. It was nice to talk over Cracker Barrel and get my mind off of work and baby preparations. That day’s appointment was similar to the last — nurse checked my blood pressure, listened to the baby’s heart beat, and checked my urine. The doctor did a cervical check and said I was now 2 centimeters dilated, but that the cervix was “still pretty thick.” This time I was about a week and a half away from “D-Day,” so I asked her what would happen if I came in for my appointment the following week and things weren’t progressing. She said she doesn’t like to let her patients go a week past their due date, but that two weeks past was the absolute max I could go. That meant the “drop-dead date” was July 29. So we potentially would discuss induction, if I didn’t go into labor before then. She ended the appointment by saying, “see you next week, if not sooner!” That added to my building “freak out.”
I always called David after my appointments to let him know how they went. At this point, since he wasn’t in the room with me, he was still pretty calm and hadn’t gotten to the realization of “this baby is actually going to be here soon — like in a couple of weeks, if that” that I was now at. That is, until…
Scheduled D-Day My last prenatal appointment was on Tuesday, July 14 – one day before my due date. It was the same as before – nurse checked my BP, listened to baby’s heart beat, and checked my urine. This time, the cervical check showed I was still at 2 centimeters. So I asked Dr. Whitlock, “what now?”
She again explained that she doesn’t like to let patients go 1 week past their due date, and she asked if hubby and I had discussed induction. We had briefly, and I explained that we weren’t opposed to it, and that I had actually told David that I would almost prefer a scheduled induction so I would know when baby was going to come (it’s the scheduler in me). She agreed that this was the “worst waiting game in the world,” and offered to call the hospital to see if any openings for a scheduled induction were available. She asked if I preferred this Thursday (as in 2 days from now) or sometime next week. I said “probably next week,” and she was out the door to make the call.
When she came back, she said the hospital had no openings next week, but they did have an opening on Thursday, so she put me down for that one. She explained that what often happens is people who are scheduled for inductions go into labor before then and so their spots would open up. I could either take Thursday, or wait and see. At this point, I was still really scared and anxious about giving birth, but I was tired of waiting and worrying that I would miss the labor signs or that we’d get stuck in traffic or… whatever else. So I said, “I’ll keep the Thursday appointment.” Also, that ensured that Dr. Whitlock would be the delivering OB/GYN as that was her “on call” day (the doctors take turns being “on call” at the hospital, so I potentially would have had a stranger deliver our baby if I went into labor naturally).
David was in court after my appointment, and I knew that if I called him he’d duck out and answer even if he was in the middle of something. So I texted, “call me when you can.” I sat in my car trying to process what was happening — yes we’d had months to prepare, but in two days we’d be in the hospital to have a baby. What?! And so my freak out increased.
David called a few minutes later and I explained what happened. This time, he had the same reaction I did — a freak out moment. I told him we didn’t have to keep the Thursday appointment, so he said we could talk about it later that night after work. That night, I requested Pepito’s for dinner. We both decided that we should keep the Thursday appointment, especially since I had said previously that I’d prefer a scheduled induction (be careful what you wish for!). That meant we had one more day before baby…
The Day Before On Wednesday, I was “go go go” the entire day. Charlie and I went on our morning walk. I had work projects to wrap up, and I let my boss, colleagues, and team know that I would officially be starting maternity leave the next day. I cleaned the ENTIRE house — vacuumed, mopped, clean all 3 bathrooms including the toilets, scrubbed the kitchen, dusted — you name it, I did it.
I took Charlie on a car ride to Chick-fil-a to pick up lunch. There were conference calls and laundry and a hospital bag to finish packing. I already had food in the freezer and had stocked up on things like toilet paper, coffee and the like. David worked, of course, and then he had a haircut appointment right after that. He then had to go to Miramar Beach for a church safety team meeting. I knew he wouldn’t be home until around 8:30 or 9, so after I was sufficiently satisfied with the housework and “work work” that I had finished, I hopped in the pool to relax around 4:30. I read and just enjoyed lounging by myself. After my pool time, I took a shower and headed to the nail salon for a manicure. Then I swung by Panda Express to pick up dinner. I took it back home and ate on the couch with Charlie and watched some “girly” TV.
David got home around 8:30 with a Chick-fil-a cookies & cream milkshake in hand. He also had stopped by Wal-mart to pick up tennis balls (recommended by our childbirth class). The rest of the night we finished packing our hospital bags, watched TV, and tried to “relax” before it was time to leave…
Checking in We had to be at the hospital at 12:30 AM on Thursday (so really Wednesday night). We left the house around 11:30 PM, and the drive over the Midbay Bridge and through Destin was easy and peaceful. The only hiccup was that David wanted coffee, but the McDonald’s were closed and he didn’t trust Whataburger. I tried not to get psyched up about what was about to happen, but rather just enjoy the last moments with just me and David.
Finally, we arrived at the hospital. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I started shaking with nervousness. We headed in, the guard explained to us where to go, and we got buzzed in to the Family Birth Place. We filled out some paperwork and were taken to a labor and delivery room. Some nurses came in and I got changed into the hospital gown and hooked up to an IV — which was by far the most painful part of the labor process (not the delivery, though!). They also attached fetal monitors and a blood pressure machine. I signed out a bazillion more consent forms — do we want baby to get her Hep B shot now? Do I want to get my Tdap shot? And many others. They also started a very small amount of Pitocin to bring on the contractions. Then the waiting game began.
We were told to rest that night, but of course I had to go pee 3 times — and it was such a pain to drag that IV machine with me every time. But that was just the first of many “oh well it is what it is” things. David’s parents and brother arrived around 3 AM and we all just tried to rest while we waited.
Needles and fire alarms Around 6:30 AM, the nurse and Dr. Whitlock’s resident came in to do a cervical check. David and his family left the room — his parents went to get breakfast and David went to Starbucks to get some much-needed coffee! This time I was about 3 centimeters dilated — after having contractions all night! We were in for a long day.
Then, around 7:30 AM, Dr. Whitlock came in to break my bag of waters. She said that “changes the ball game” and encouraged me to go ahead and get the epidural soon. I told the nurse I wanted to go ahead and put my name on the list since it can take a while for the nurse anesthetist to get to you. A little while later, the nurse anesthetist came in to do the epidural. She asked if I had watched the video in the doctor’s office — I had — and I had to sign a consent form. David stayed in the room with me, but his family left. I got in position — sitting Indian-style on the bed with my back curved.
Just as we were getting ready to start, the fire alarm started going off. It was a false alarm caused by the construction that the Family Birth Place was undergoing, but it didn’t help the situation! Also, the telemetry machines monitoring the fetal heart beat stopped working so the nurse had to try using a portable machine. The way I was positioned made it difficult for her to get the heart beat, so between the nurse not being able to get the baby’s heart beat and the fire alarms going off, I wasn’t exactly in a calm state during the epidural procedure. But still, it didn’t hurt! Like I said before, the IV was the worst part.
However, it took the anesthetist three – three! – tries to get the epidural catheter in place. She had to try between different vertebrae because she couldn’t get it in position. Of course, I wasn’t exactly “in the zone” with all of the distractions, but I finally took a deep breath, curved my back, and the epidural was one.
The warmth began. After that, I had to get a catheter and was bed-bound for the rest of the day. I never really felt a contraction until delivery time.
Ice chips and popsicles I spent the rest of the day being moved from one side to the other — the nurse would lay me on my left side and put my right leg in the left stirrup, and then a couple hours later we’d move to the other side. Occasionally I’d get to lay on my back. I would nap here and there, and just enjoy the comfort I was in. I couldn’t eat, but I had a seemingly endless supply of ice chips to “snack on.” The nurse also offered a popsicle which I jumped at. Meanwhile, David, his mom and brother spent the morning playing rummy while David’s dad did some work (free wifi!). They played for something like 5 hours straight!
Every couple of hours the nurse or resident would come do a cervical check. I was progressing about 1 centimeter every two hours. 10 is the magic number and I had started the morning at 3, so it seemed like slow progression — but it was still progress! The nurse also gradually increased the pitocin. Thankfully, every time they did a cervical check the family left the room — and around lunch time, they decided to go to the cafeteria. David was going to stay with me, but I told him to get out! He had been up for something like 30 hours at this point and he needed fresh air. I also wanted a moment to myself.
After they came back from lunch, it was family nap time. Everyone took a little nap. Things continued through the afternoon until around 5 PM when Dr. Whitlock came in to do a cervical check and said “you’re ready to push!”
Practice run I had gone from 5 or 6 centimeters to 10 in what seemed like 10 minutes (it was really a couple of hours). Because it was my first time, Dr. Whitlock said she wanted to let me “labor down” a little, and she told me to let them know when I felt constant pressure. This news, of course, freaked me out again, as I realized I had no idea what it meant to “push.” They didn’t go over that in the childbirth class. I started shaking again and felt really cold, so the nurse put blankets around me to make me more comfortable. I was feeling pressure, and watched the clock. I told my mother-in-law that I was feeling the pressure so she went to tell the nurse.
It was a little after 5 PM. The next thing I knew, the family except for David was out and a NASCAR-like setup was happening — the bed was being transitioned to a delivery table, stations were being set up, all kinds of people were coming in. The nurse who had been with me all day was trying to tell me not to be afraid to defecate … it was all a blur. The nurse asked if we wanted a mirror to see the delivery (we both replied with an emphatic “no!”), and I let Dr. Whitlock know that David did not want to cut the cord. David also told the nurses that we wanted the baby cleaned before they gave her to us — we didn’t want her put on my chest immediately after delivery for “skin to skin.” It became quite apparent to the doctor and the staff that David was not interested in “seeing” anything!
Dr. Whitlock also asked me what one thing I had been craving all day that I wanted after delivery. Dr. Pepper! Crazy enough, but every time I got a new cup of ice I kept thinking how good Dr. Pepper would be with it.
Everything was ready, and a contraction come on, so I started to push. However, this turned out to be a practice run. I pushed 3 times — and I was getting the hang of it (I didn’t know you were supposed to hold your breath as you pushed) — when the doctor said she thought I still had a lot of pushing to do, so she wanted to let me continue to “labor down” for a couple more hours rather than let me push for hours on end. I was grateful. So, everything and everyone disappeared.
At this point, I really just wanted to rest so David told his family and my family who had showed up just as everyone was leaving that I was asleep and they needed to wait in the waiting room. I also was starting to feel a lot of back pain — the epidural was wearing off! Thankfully we had a magic button to give me more. The reason I felt the back labor was because the baby was “sunny side up” — her face was facing up instead of down so her back was pressure on my back. The nurse and doctor had realized this during a cervical check when they felt what seemed like a forehead bone. This is one of the reasons I had a lot more “pushing” to do.
Thankfully, the day nurse was still there for another our so she reassured me that I was a “good pusher” but that it would be more difficult to deliver the baby in that position, and that if the baby stayed in that position it might have a cone forehead — like a unicorn! ;) Since David and I were the only ones in the room, the nurse helped me get into “hands and knees” position to try to get the baby to turn. It also made my back feel better! I stayed in that position for a few minutes, and then she put me back on my back to rest and labor for a little while longer. She gave me another popsicle (red this time!). But then she had to introduce me to the night nurse who would be there during the delivery. We LOVED our day nurse (Jessica) — she was very sweet and even came by to see us on Saturday! The night nurse was great, too, but we really loved Jessica.
Go time Around 7:30 or so, the night nurse came in to say that Dr. Whitlock had called and she wanted them to get me ready to deliver. She was leaving her house and on her way to the hospital. This time, the process was much calmer since there was some time before the doctor got there. The night nurse transitioned the bed into a delivery table, got all of the tools ready, and again asked if we wanted a mirror (still no).
Dr. Whitlock arrived and things got started again. This time, I was much calmer — I knew what was going on and things were just more relaxed as everyone got into position. David was on my left with a wet wash cloth on my forehead, the nurse was on my right with my right foot, another nurse had my left foot, and Dr. Whitlock was … right in front of me.
I started pushing a little after 8 PM. We had increased the epidural one more time, so I wasn’t really feeling pain, but I could feel the contractions coming on — especially because I would feel increased pressure “down there.” Between pushes, Dr. Whitlock would make conversation. She told us she saw lots of hair and asked which one of us had dark hair as a baby. We talked about FSU football. I would push when a new contraction came on. As I was pushing, the doctor said the baby was trying to turn so it would be in the right position (face down). Everything was fine…
Then, after a while (maybe 40 minutes or so?), I went in to my own world. I was aware enough to know when to push, but it was like I was in tunnel. Some people say you “enter the womb” when you deliver. I don’t really think it was that, but I was definitely in another place at the end. I was exhausted. It was getting harder to only take one big breath between pushes. And pushing with all of my force was becoming incredibly difficult. I kept praying that “this one” would be the last — that the baby would finally be out. After about an hour of pushing, the head crowned — and it was the worst. pain. in. my. entire. life. I remember trying to cry in between pushes because of the pain and exhaustion (how do women push for hours upon hours? And do it without pain meds?!). Finally, the doctor said, “the head is out – you have to push!” So I gave one final push with everything left in me — and the baby was out! I collapsed back, closed my eyes and took deep breaths.
I opened my eyes but everything was a blur. I’m pretty sure I was delirious. I looked over at David, and I’ll never forget the look on his face — tears welling in his eyes and a “this just happened, I can’t believe you did that” smile on his face. I looked at Dr. Whitlock as she was pulling the cord out and massaging the placenta out. And then I looked over to my right where the baby was. I couldn’t really see because of all of the people — and I wasn’t wearing my glasses — but I could tell that there was a lot happening. The first thing David and I said to each other was “one and done!” I remember saying, “I’ve heard people say that giving birth is like doing the splits on top of firecrackers — and they are right.” We heard Claire cry for the first time, and I said to David “she has a sweet cry — for now!”
Apparently, I only suffered minor tearing (bilaterally?). And Claire’s second APGAR score was a 9. I heard the “Brahm’s Lullaby” music they played every time a baby was born. They had played it so many times that day, and finally they played it for our Claire. I had spiked a fever of 101 during delivery, which meant that Claire and I both had to be put on IV antibiotics. So the nurses were going to have to take her to the “baby lounge.” They asked if we wanted to let our family come meet her before that, and since they had been waiting for a couple hours, and it was after 9PM, we said yes.
First, though, they gave me clean, precious Claire to lay on my chest for “skin to skin” time (much better without all of the icky birth stuff). It was an amazing moment to have my baby on my chest — both of us resting from the traumatic experience we both just had! She even tried to lift her head to turn it!
Then all of the family came in – the room was packed! The nurse took Claire to swaddle her so she could meet the family, but first I gave her a kiss on the cheek. Claire was passed from person to person while I finally got to eat something (Chick-fil-a nuggets!) and enjoy my Dr. Pepper — David was the last one to get to hold her! And then the nurses came in to take her to get her IV.
A few hours later, when the epidural had worn off, I was finally able to get out of bed — with lots of help of course. I was taken to the bathroom to change and the nurse explained all of the postpartum “stuff” they supplied for “down there.” BTW, witch hazel pads are amazing. I changed, got in bed, and David and I both zonked out. The nurses brought Claire into our room after her IV antibiotics were given.
The next day, we got put into a “recovery room” for the duration of our stay. Unfortunately, because of the antibiotics, we didn’t get to go home until Sunday. David would run home to see Charlie, shower and pick up coffee and food. Thankfully, his parents had stopped by our house on Thursday night to let Charlie out and give him some attention since he’d been locked up all day!
We were given a hospital “celebration” dinner on Friday night (I had chicken and David got the steak), but thankfully David and his parents provided real food for most meals (hospital food is gross), and we had an endless supply of ice and water from the hospital. David’s parents stopped by every day, and Melody and Julian came by on Friday. We also had visits from pediatricians, the on-call OB/GYN and nurses throughout the day, but mostly we watched TV and just rested in between holding Claire, feeding her and changing her diaper.
For the most part, I had a really great experience at Sacred Heart’s family birth place. My OB/GYN was awesome, the day nurse we had on Thursday was amazing, and the rooms were decently sized and relatively comfortable — especially once David figured out how the pull-out couch worked! The labor was long, and the delivery was hard (could have been worse, for sure), but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.