I thought Sam's birth story had a ridiculous amount of details. The minutia of Clara's story, however, far outweighs Sam's. So here's the account of Clara's birth in 2500 words or less...
I had no idea a birth could be so peace-filled and joyful. Peace and joy. Those are the two words that best describe little Clara Jane’s birth. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord for this unexpected blessing
On Thursday, November 5th I met Adalyn the doula. I had been unsure of hiring a doula. I had read a brief article on how enlisting the help of a doula significantly reduced the amount of post partum depression for some women. This piqued my interest. I knew Community North Hospital had a doula program, and a neighbor friend had highly recommended Adalyn. What pushed me over the edge to hire her, however, was John. The hospital charges $250 (a ridiculously small amount for the services offered) and I wondered if that money would be better off spent elsewhere. I remember thinking, “Maybe instead of a doula I should just splurge on some post-natal massages.” John’s response surprised me when I mentioned not going with a doula. “Can we please get one?” He asked. I remember him saying that he felt better about knowing there was another support person in the room to help us out. So I scheduled an appointment with Adalyn and within seconds of meeting her I knew it was the right decision.
I should add the 24 hours leading up to her birth were difficult. Sunday, November 7th John, Sam and I went over to the Peelers for a play date, music, and dinner. The kids played. John and Lance had some great jazz jamming, and Amy and I were catching up. I filled her in on my meeting the doula and my latest doctor’s appointment where I was told I was 2 cm dilated, 50% effaced, and at -2 station. “Do you think you could have the baby this week?” She asked. I just laughed and said, “No. I think she’s staying put.” Famous last words.
Around 5:30 pm I started to feel one of my stomach attacks coming on. I took my medicine and attempted a walk with Amy, which was quickly terminated. We ate bean soup and bread and headed home. John began the bedtime process with Sam, which I completed so he could watch the rest of the Colts game at his parents.
My usual stomach-relief “tricks” were not working and around 9 pm it occurred to me, “This hurts worse than labor.” I took that as a sign to go to Marion General Hospital. The Wards watched Sam and John and I took off.
When we arrived at the hospital, everyone assumed the 38-week pregnant lady hunched over and breathing heavily was in labor. I kept trying to convince them that I wasn’t. “She’s breathing like she’s in labor,” one nurse said, to which John responded, “This is how she always breathes during these attacks.” What I wanted to add was, “This is not how I breathe during contractions because this hurts worse than contractions.” At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it was the worst pain I had ever experienced and all I could do was lie in bed and moan.
My blood pressure was elevated at 140/98 and the nurse was concerned I had pre-clampsia. She confirmed, however, that the kind of pain I was describing could also cause a spike to my blood pressure. Protein checks came back fine and they crossed “pre-clampsia” off the list.
They did a cervical check and saw that I had not progressed since my latest doctors appointment. They held off all medication until they could get approval from the doctor on call. Which, unfortunately, took over two hours. During that two-hour wait I occupied myself with regurgitating dinner over and over again. At some point in the evening, either the stomach pain, or the intense vomiting triggered pre-labor. The pain in my stomach prevented me from feeling the contractions, but if I had my hand on my belly I could feel it tightening every 5-10 minutes or so.
Finally, the doctor on call approved medication. I was given the option of Staydol or an epidural. I knew I still had not dilated much and wasn’t yet convinced I was in labor so I didn’t want an epidural. Plus, I knew that even if I were in labor, an epidural would commit me to birthing in Marion and if there was any chance of delivering in Indianapolis I wanted to go that route. So I choose Staydol. I had been terrified of this medication. I heard horror stories of people feeling “out of it” and nauseated and had originally written in my birth plan that I wanted to avoid this drug. However, at 1 am in the morning, in immense pain, I would have taken rat poison had they said it would help. So I took the Staydol and entered into a bizarre kind of la-la-land. The drug was strange—I could still feel my stomach pain, but I no longer cared that it hurt. I remember telling the nurse that it still really hurt and yet I felt so relaxed. Best of all, I got an hour’s worth of sleep. They repeated the Staydol when it wore off for another hour and a half of sleep. I remember telling the nurse that it felt like I couldn’t breath. She told me that was normal and that I was actually breathing just fine. I can see why some people hate this drug. Had I wanted to remain awake and lucid this would have driven me crazy. However, the fact that it was the middle of the night, I was in pain, and wanted to sleep made this a good option for me.
My mom and Abby arrived from Michigan sometime around 3 am. I was on pain meds and sent them back to my house so they could get some sleep for whatever events were headed our way.
My favorite Marion Ob Gyn visited in the morning. I was still contracting (though I couldn’t feel it), and was dilated to 3 centimeters. The nurse said my bag of water was “bulging,” and that she could tell the baby had lots of hair (though the doctor made a face as if she didn’t know what she was talking about). The doctor gave me the option of staying in Marion to deliver the baby or leaving immediately for Indy. “I don’t want you stopping at home for a shower,” he said. John and I decided to leave for Indy.
We went home, packed a few things, kissed Sam, and picked up Abby. I ignored the nurse’s advice to not eat or drink and went through the Starbucks drive thru. Abby and John entertained me on the drive to the hospital. I kept my eyes closed and breathed through contractions, which were now making themselves known.
We arrived at Community North Hospital and went first to my doctor’s office. I was still dilated to a 3 but with the way I was contracting they wanted to admit me. I still didn’t think this was the “real thing” yet and was convinced I’d be sent home. We requested a few hours to ourselves before admittance and walked around the hospital grounds. Window shopping, climbing stairs, and grabbing lunch at the cafeteria (again, something the doctor told us not to do).
Around 3 pm we walked up to Labor and Delivery where we met Adalyn the doula. I was surprised I had progressed to 4 centimeters during the hour we went walking. I was still in disbelief and asked the nurse, “Am I really in labor?” She assured me I was and left the room. At this point I turned to Adalyn and asked, “If my contractions slow down at what point do they send me home?” By this time, Abby and John couldn’t stop laughing because it was obvious to everyone except for me that I was in labor. Adalyn just smiled and said, “Honey, they’re not going to send you home.” I think that’s when it sunk in that we were going to have a baby.
The doctor on call was quick to offer to break my water but I choose to hold off for a while. We walked around Labor and Delivery with Adalyn giving John and Abby instructions on what to do during contractions. She was an amazing coach and her suggestions provided quite a bit of relief. I was shocked how a few simple exercises could ease the pain.
At one point I was offered an epidural. My gut reaction was that I should wait until the pain got unbearable. This was quickly followed by the question, “Why?” If I know I’m going to get an epidural, why not get it now so I can rest?” With only getting 3 hours of sleep the night before I was eager to rest up as much as I could before it came time to push. So at 4:10 pm the epidural was inserted. The epidural took perfectly—opening my eyes to just how weak the epidural was I received with Sam. I was more than comfortable. (Thankfully, my blood pressure was back to normal at this point). At this point I was 4cm, 75% effaced and at -1 station.
I got a much-needed nap from 5:10-7 pm. When I awoke I found that my contractions had slowed to once every thirty minutes and I had not dilated any further. So I requested that my water be broken. There was a bit of a delay since my doctor had gone home to visit with her son after his soccer practice. Originally she said that she would be back in a few hours and that she didn’t want me to be cared for by the other doctor on call. This was confusing and somewhat frustrating, however, she must have changed her mind because she returned within the hour.
My water was broken at 7:50 pm and we found there was meconium present in the sack. This meant that instead of having the baby immediately placed on my chest with an uncut cord, she would be whisked off by the NICU team for suctioning. Once again I was thankful for the doula’s presence who assured me she’s seen this many times before and most likely everything would be just fine.
At 9:20 pm I broke one of my birth plan rules and requested pitocin. I didn’t notice any adverse reactions to the drug. Once again I got a glorious nap in from 10 pm-12 am. John was asleep in the little daddy alcove (which was complete with a bed, flat screen TV, desk, and a curtain to draw to avoid unnecessary interruptions). Abby slept on a recliner next to me.
At 12:10 am my favorite nurse, Amanda, entered the room to see how I was progressing (you know you’ve got a great nurse when she can do all of her duties without waking everyone in the room). I was 6cm and 80% effaced at a -2 station. After Amanda left I remember looking at the clock, seeing it was 12:25 am and thinking, “This could be my last chance to have some quiet solitude.” I decided to spend the next few minutes in prayer, praising the Lord for the peacefulness and excitement of the day in spite of the agony of the night before. While I was praying I felt a definite shift and called the nurse saying, “I know you just checked me, but would you please check me again? I think I need to push.” Sure enough, in a mere 10 minutes I went from 6 cm to 10 cm and was 100% effaced. I asked the nurse to help me sit up (I wanted to put on make-up—yes, I’m that vain), but she refused, worrying aloud that the baby was going to come out before the doctor arrived. Amanda ran off to get the doctor while I gently called out to John and Abby that it was show time.
My short time of prayer at 12:25 am is a cherished memory of mine. It felt like a sacred moment of praise. I found out later that my dear friend, Amy, had awoken at precisely 12:25 am to pray for me. I’m so grateful for those peaceful moments to myself reflecting on God’s goodness.
Adalyn returned to my room, thrilled with my progress and applied my make-up for me (I didn’t know this was part of a doula’s job description). Within minutes my room was full of doctors and the NICU team. There was so no time for “practice pushes” this baby was coming. I had requested a mirror so I could track my progress (I think this would have really helped with Sam’s labor). John and Abby counted and supported me while Adalyn took pictures. It was bizarre to have the doctor tell me to “stop pushing” and “slow down” since I had the opposite experience with Sam.
At 12:53 am on Tuesday, November 9, 2011, Clara Jane Drury drew her first breath after a mere 8 minutes of pushing. I was in complete awe. I remember thinking: “I could do this again right now!” John cut the cord (which had been wrapped loosely around her neck), and Clara was handed off to the NICU team who suctioned her mouth and nose. Her little cry that was soon to follow was so sweet. After she was declared healthy (she scored an “8” on Apgar and a “9” five minutes later), she was placed in my arms where she immediately latched on and nursed like a champ. Pictures were taken, tears were shed, and a general sense of peace fell across the room. Little Clara weighed in at 6 pounds 12 ounces and was 20.5 inches long.
After a little nursing and much snuggling, everyone fell asleep. I was shocked that Clara slept for 4 hours at a time. I kept asking the nurse if I should wake her up. She assured me that Clara was fine and that I should sleep as much as possible (again, this was a shock since a screaming Sam was deposited on my lap about two hours after falling asleep by a testy nurse who simply said, “He keeps waking the other babies. He wants his mom,” and then left the room). The 48 hours at the hospital were unbelievably peaceful, full of lots of sleep, hot showers, and many, many smiles.
Again, I had no idea that a birth could be such a peaceful and joyous event. I am so grateful to God for not only a happy, healthy baby, but also for the serene experience that was her birth.