Valencia Rose has arrived: Birth Story

Posted on September 10, 2012

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*If you are not into the details of birth and just want some pics from Valencia’s first few days, then scroll down to the bottom 🙂

Thursday, Aug 30th 9pm: Contractions Begin

John and I are visiting with some friends in our neighborhood, watching the movie, What to Expect When You are Expecting. And that’s when they began: real contractions. At first a twinge of pain, just enough to know that these are different than the Braxton Hicks contractions I have been having for the last month. I don’t mention anything at first, mostly because I find it too ironic and a bit cliche that I would go into labor while watching a movie about having a baby.

That evening, the contractions continue to increase in pain, and I find myself drifting in and out of sleep while alternating between bed and a bath that I add fresh hot water to every few hours.

Friday Aug 31st 9am: Labor at Home

By morning I decided to text Lucy, a Kenyan midwife who is going to be functioning as our doula. She is with us throughout the day as my contractions increase in succession, giving me ideas for different positions to manage the pain. At lunch time I am still feeling well enough and wanting to make flatbread for lunch, so I spend 30 minutes rolling out dough and cooking it on the stove top. This increases the speed of my contractions. We also take a few walks around the neighborhood (with every contraction I had to stop and lean into John, and I’m sure we gave the neighborhood kids something to talk about).

By 4 pm the contractions are still about 6-7 minutes apart, lasting for 40 seconds or so. From 4-7ish Nairobi turns into pure gridlock, and so we need to decided whether or not to jump in the car and try to get to the hospital before traffic, or to wait and go after the traffic, knowing that if we went during that window, then we could easily spend two hours in the car. We opted to wait, and by 8:30 things have heated up enough to head to the hospital and Lucy said she was fairly certain I was at least 4 cm along.  So we jumped in the car, said a quick prayer for clear roads and a smooth ride (at least as smooth as possible considering some of the roads around here!). Along the way, I also remember that I am supposed to text my OB to tell her that I am in labor.

Friday Aug 31st 9pm: Arrive at the Hospital

We pull into the parking lot at Aga Khan Hospital, and within a few minutes are admitted to a curtained-off bed in the maternity ward to be observed for 20 minutes via external fetal monitor and whatever contraption is used to measure contractions. This is also where I experience my first “cervical check” to see how far dilated I am. So happy to hear that I am already at 5 cm! They deem me in active labor and ready to be admitted to a labor and delivery room. I had been hoping that the room with the birthing pool would be available and it was! Even though we are not planning for me to actually give birth in the water, I wanted to be able to labor in the water as much as possible. By 10 pm we are settling in there, and a few minutes later our OB shows up and she decides to check me as well and says I am at about 6 cm. She declares that she will leave us along to labor in privacy and she will stop by in another 3 hours. The hospital is very “hands off” in their approach to birth and I am thankful that they do not want to hook me up to any monitors or confine me to the bed. Apparently the policy is that they will use an external fetal monitor to check the baby every 4 hours to make sure they are not in any distress. Well, I don’t even make it to the 4 hour check point.

So far I have been able to “manage” the pain through willing my body to relax and listening to the constant reminders from John and Lucy to keep breathing. The contractions are coming closer and closer together, leaving me little time to rest. And then the moment comes where I hit the wall. It’s the “I-can’t-do-this-anymore” wall. And as I am thinking this, I am also despondently aware that even if I were to opt for an epidural, it would be at least 30 minutes before it would be effective. It is also at this moment that Lucy tells me that she is pretty sure I am fully dilated, or at least very close.

Saturday Sept 1st 12am(ish): Ready to Push

A few more contractions and suddenly I feel an unspeakable urge to push, and I declare to them, “I need to push!” Lucy steps out to get the nurse to check how far dilated I am, while I climb out of the water and onto the bed. The nurse takes his sweet time leisurely strolling in and gloving up to check my cervix.  The expectation was that certainly a first timer like me would not be fully dilated already. However, he soon declares with surprise that I am 10 cm dilated and that I am ready to push, but I must not because the doctor is not here yet. For the next 20 minutes I declare with every contraction, “I need to push!!” and I am met with the response from everyone in the room, “Don’t push! Just breath, wait for the doctor.” It was torture, and it took every ounce of self-control and will-power to not push when my body was telling me to. Finally the OB shows up, and I am at last instructed to push.

Saturday Sept 1st 12:58 am: Birth!

Five or six pushes and 15 minutes later, I experience this little body coming out of mine and she is placed on my chest. “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,” I repeat in a dazed state of exhaustion and wonder. I wish that my wonder was triggered by some powerful maternal instinct of instant love, but at this moment it is not. At this moment, all I can think of is that she came out of me, and that she is a real person, not just an idea. Despite feeling weak and very out of it, I hold her to me and try to nurse her. She is covered in white goo, and her head, though full of yucky birth stuff is covered by red(!) hair. The doctor offers for John to cut the cord, and I see him disappear into the bathroom (read his post for more on this). Eventually the pediatrician takes her to check her out and she is weighed and measured for length (again, I am thankful this is all in the same room and they don’t have to take her away). At 5.5 lbs she is just a wee one. She is given to John to hold as I am feeling pretty weak, but he holds her near so that I am distracted by her while I receive stitches for the 3 places that I tore during delivery.

Eventually I am all stitched up and they take us to a private recovery room where we spend our first night together as a family. It was the next morning, after I was starting to feel more lucid that my “maternal instincts” finally emerged and the awe and wonder at this new little life flooded over me. We remained in the hospital Saturday night and Sunday night, and Monday came home.

Snuggling with mama

She weighs in at 2.2 kilos….or 5.5 lbs for us Americans.

Her lungs work well, too.

L to R: Allen (Claire’s childhood stuffed animal), Valencia, Rutabaga (gift to Valencia from Grammy Pammy)

Nap time with Daddy

Lucy, our doula, holding Valencia.

This is NOT the bet picture of me, but I really wanted at least one last picture of me being pregnant, so we snapped this on Friday afternoon, about 10 hours before I gave birth.

I’m pretty sure this was at around 3 am the day after she was born. It was one of the first times she started to make little faces at us.

10 Days later: Looking back

As I look back on it I feel so thankful. Thankful for the support I had from John and Lucy. Thankful that I was able to make it through the whole thing without medication (again I credit John and Lucy, as I am pretty sure I would have given up a lot sooner without their support).  Thankful for a labor and delivery room with a birthing tub. Thankful that there were no major complications. Thankful that the labor didn’t drag on forever. Thankful that when I felt like I couldn’t go on, that it was time to push. Thankful that the hospital and doctor very much honored my desire to aim for a natural birth. Thank you, God, for all the gifts of grace surrounding the arrival of Valencia Rose. I am so thankful for a beautiful, healthy little girl who now takes up a far bigger space in my heart than she ever did in my abdomen.

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Posted in: Clarissa, Valencia