It's hard to believe it's been 10 days since we brought Elmer home for the first time. It felt like a long week, but now that it's past, it feels strange that it's been 10 days already! Elmer's currently napping, so we'll see if I can write up the story of his birth. (It took 2 naps).
I guess I'll begin with Wednesday, January 18, when I had my last OB appointment. I was 50% effaced and 2 cm dilated. My blood pressure had been a little high on my previous visit, and was still high that day. However, after monitoring me for about 30 minutes, it dropped back down to normal range. That was enough for my doctor to encourage me to be induced. I declined, but decided to take the rest of the week off of work to take it easy.
On Friday, January 20, had fairly strong and regular contractions all day, but they were only about 15-20 minutes apart and didn't seem to be increasing in intensity. So Chris and I cleaned the house, went out to lunch at the nearby Pizza Hut (they have a lunch buffet!), and went for a walk. We spent a lovely, relaxed evening together, anticipating that we would probably have a baby soon.
About 1 AM Saturday morning, my contractions definitely became more intense, but I was still able to sleep some in between them. They kicked up another notch around 3:00 AM, and about 5:30 AM I woke Chris to tell him that we'd probably go to the hospital in a few hours, so we should have breakfast and pack. We woke up, got dressed, and threw some things together that I thought we'd need at the hospital. I ate a light breakfast (a little oatmeal and half a banana), and we relaxed at home until about 7:30, when my contractions took up a lot more of my concentration. We decided it was time to go!
We arrived at Chandler Regional Medical Center a little after 8:00. I had pre-registered, so I didn't have much paperwork to fill out. They put us in triage and strapped me to a fetal monitor, and checked my cervix: 3 cm dilated, but 90% effaced. My blood pressure was still high, so they watched us and Elmer's heart rate for a long time. I kept wondering when they would pass us through to labor and delivery, since laboring on that stupid bed strapped to a monitor was NOT comfortable - I wanted to be able to walk or change positions! They finally decided to check us in around 11:00, after making me give a urine sample (that was not easy to do between contractions) to check for preeclampsia, and once my cervix was dilated to 5.5 cm.
Once we got to our room, things really seemed to kick into gear pretty quickly. My contractions became very intense. They still kept me on a bed strapped to a monitor, and I didn't like that at all, but I was too busy focusing on labor to protest. Chris was with me, encouraging me, holding my hand, and answering the questions that the nurses were asking. They were concerned with Elmer's heart rate, which was spiking and dipping quite a bit during contractions.
Around noon, my cervix was dilated to 8 cm, and shortly after that I started getting very strong urges to push. I told the nurses, and they started scrambling around. About 1:00, I was completed dilated to 10 cm, and they started encouraging me to push. This was the hardest part for me - I didn't mind the contractions, but first trying NOT to push and then trying to push was very challenging. Chris was always in contact and cheering me on. The nurses joked about delivering the baby without the doctor, but he finally arrived just in time for the final phases of pushing. Chris was telling me I was so close, that he could see Elmer's head crowning and slipping back, and it gave me new energy to push! Finally, Elmer was born at 1:29 PM! Chris cut the umbilical cord, and they placed this little blue guy on my chest - his eyes were wide open and he had this little cry! I couldn't see him well without my glasses, but he looked like a tiny little blue muppet!
I did tear a little bit, so the doctor stitched me up after the placenta was delivered. Chris alternated between watching Elmer get cleaned up and checking in on me. It was nice that they didn't remove Elmer from the room, so I could get a sense of what they were doing with him. Finally, the flurry of activity was over. I was able to put my glasses back on, and got my first real look at our son.
Chris and I had a few quiet moments alone with Elmer, as we decided on a name. We had had a short list of names that we liked, mostly from family names, but we'd wanted to wait and meet our son before making a decision. When we saw him, we knew that he was Elmer, and gave him my maiden name for his middle name. Elmer was the name of Chris's maternal grandfather, someone that Chris loved and respected.
We hadn't wanted to notify anyone we were at the hospital until we got checked in, so there wasn't much time to let our families know that we were having a baby! The Perrys all arrived right after Elmer was born, so they only got a glimpse of him for a few minutes before the hospital wanted to move us. The Labor & Delivery wing was really busy, so they moved us to a quiet room in the C-Section recovery area.
While I did like my birth team, the rest of the hospital experience was pretty miserable. We wanted to go home! I felt fine, Elmer was fine, and we weren't comfortable at the hospital. They insisted we needed to be there for 24 hours, though, so we waited. On Sunday, Elmer was circumcised, blood tested, hearing tested and cleared by a pediatrician. Finally, we were cleared to go home at 4:00 PM.
I should say that I wanted to have a birth with as little medical intervention as possible, but I did want the security of being at a hospital. I read a great book called Natural Hospital Birth, which I highly recommend. It gave me a lot of confidence about knowing when to go to the hospital (once the contractions started, anyway) and how to write my birth plan. The nurses on my birth team were very respectful of my plan and stuck to it for the most part (though they did push post-partum Pitocin on me, which I agreed to because I was too exhausted to argue. Frankly, I didn't care that much about it.). In hindsight, I wish I'd included some instructions about my laboring preferences, but they might not have let me change anyway due to their concern over my blood pressure and Elmer's heart rate. Otherwise, I couldn't have asked for a smoother birth experience. I never felt the desire to have pain medication, my contractions were never unmanageable. The hardest part was the pushing, and that wasn't pain so much as effort.
The first week at home was very challenging, due to lack of sleep and figuring out how to breast feed. But now, 10 days in, I feel more rested and capable. Elmer's starting to show signs of settling into a schedule, and we're both getting very good at breast feeding! I'm grateful to have a good 12 weeks leave from work to relax and learn how to care for myself and Elmer. Chris is a wonderful father and is fantastic at soothing Elmer when he gets fussy. They enjoy taking naps and cuddling together. We are all looking forward to our life ahead as a family.