Because nature has an amazing way of making you totally zone out through the birthing process, Dean’s birth story is written by my husband, Richard. I added some additional commentary as well! Fair warning…this post is VERY detailed (and long). It is meant to be just one example of how the birth experience can be. Every woman is different and every baby has his/her own way of entering our world. This is just how our story went…
Our goal for Dean’s birth was to deliver him naturally, with no pain medication or unnecessary medical intervention. We took Bradley classes and we also read a number of books and birth stories, along with watching various videos. Tina took pre-natal yoga, continued strength training and cardio exercises, did her kegels, pelvic tilts, etc. and I practiced massaging and coaching relaxation. It was all great preparation and we learned a lot, but no class or book can ever truly prepare you for the real experience.
On Monday, November 10, 2014 Tina had a busy day of yoga, walking around town, and a doctor’s appointment. Dr. Ng examined her and announced she was 2cm dilated, which was exciting news because, in Dr. Ng’s words, Burrito (don’t worry! we didn’t actually name him Burrito!) could come any day now. This got us really excited, and when Tina started having back pain and some cramping early that evening, we thought our little bundle of joy might really be on his way. We had dinner at a Mexican restaurant and she started getting cramping feelings every 10 minutes or so.
After visiting with some friends, we took a rough cab ride home and, following the advice of everyone who had anything to say on the matter, went to bed even though the cramping persisted. We knew that we would need as much rest as possible if this was it! Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Baby Dean Burrito was just teasing us. On Tuesday the cramps had gone away and were replaced by… not much. Tina was very disappointed because we had gotten mentally ready to welcome Dean to the world, but now we didn’t know when he would come. Over the next few days we got back into our routine and decided that if the feelings started again, we would stay calm until more happened.
On the afternoon of Saturday, November 15 (two days past baby’s “due date”), Tina and I decided to go see a movie. I had been wanting to see “Interstellar” since it came out the previous weekend, and after we spent our morning at the Verizon store learning about how we weren’t actually getting as bad of a deal as we thought on our mobile plan, we decided to go. We went to a 3:00pm showing in Murray Hill in IMAX, which was loud and booming! I got us a big tub of popcorn (with butter, naturally) and a previously “illegal” coca-cola (not diet coke, mind you). Throughout the movie our little Burrito squirmed and wiggled inside his mommy; we didn’t know if it was because he was as overwhelmed as us by the noise from the movie or if the caffeine (and sugar) from the soda was getting to him.
When the movie finished, we walked to Curry Hill to have dinner. It was a little early at only 6:30pm and Tina wasn’t terribly hungry, but we were there and decided Indian food would be good since we didn’t know when we’d be back. We looked up a restaurant with good ratings (Kokum was our spot). We each ordered a spicy dosa and had a delicious meal. During the middle of dinner, Tina looked at me and said “I have a feeling he’s going to come tonight.” I wasn’t sure how she could know this, but I took her word for it and smiled. I could not wait. After dinner we had designs on taking a walk, but it was really cold and we only got a few blocks before hopping in a cab.
Back at our apartment, Tina was exhausted and by 9:30pm she was ready to sleep. I thought it was a little early, even by our standards, so I read for a little while as I waited for some laundry to finish, but by 10:30 I was also ready for sleep, too. It turned out to be one of our best decisions.
Around 1:30am on Sunday, Tina started having cramps again, similar to what she experienced on Monday. She went to the bathroom multiple times and woke me up a few minutes later. I told her to remember that it might take a while so even if it was the real thing, we should try to go back to sleep and get as much rest as we could – and if it was in fact real, soon enough she would know and we would do what we needed. I was mainly focused on keeping her calm in case it was another false alarm, and I knew early labor could last a long time (especially for first babies) so there was no harm in spending a few hours of it asleep. So we laid back down, but a few minutes later she had to use the bathroom again.
While in the bathroom, though, she had her first sign of “bloody show.” Tina came out of the bathroom and we were about to lay back down when she had her first real contraction, around 2am. She stood next to the bed and leaned over as the contraction came and went. We now felt that this might not be a false alarm. I started gathering some things to prepare, such as filling up water, checking on the birth plan to make sure it was printed, and other last minute details that I knew I could work on between contractions – after all, this was just the beginning, and everything we read had told us that the first few hours they could be 5-10 minutes apart, giving us time to get into a routine, try out different positions, and check off the last few items on our “go bag” list.
Burrito, on the other hand, had different plans. Around 2:30am the contractions started to pick up intensity and increase in duration, so that I started to time them. I was still a bit groggy and working on remembering everything from our Bradley class, and thought I was doing pretty well…until I saw the first set of times. I had to time several contractions to be certain, because text books say that early labor contractions are around 30 seconds every 5-10 minutes; and after several hours they will start to last 45-60 seconds, with 3-5 minute intervals, followed by 60-120 second contractions with 1 minute intervals (at which point parents-to-be are advised to head to the hospital). Tina’s contractions, less than an hour after beginning, were already lasting 60-75 seconds with 2-3 minutes in between. This was much faster than anything we had read about! (Tina’s Comment: In my mind, I had imagined spending at least a few minutes of early labor in the tub with a glass of wine. Ha!)
At 3am I texted Sonia Cangemi, our doula, to let her know things had started and where they had got to. She told us to keep going and let her know when things progressed further. As an experienced doula, she anticipated (like the textbooks) that we had a long way to go – especially since she spoke to Tina and Tina was still able to talk back to her.
So we waited as things progressed. I kept trying to finish off last minute tasks, but didn’t have much time for anything useful since the contractions were coming every 2 minutes now. They were becoming more intense. Tina had shifted from leaning on the bed to down on all fours, leaning on the birth ball. This was more comfortable, but tiring on her knees, hips, thighs and arms. I gave her water between contractions, tried to massage her back (which was really hurting) and offered her food. I was nervous because the longer it went on, the more it became obvious that her contractions were not following any “normal” pattern. By 5am, she was having contractions of 2 minutes each, about 90 seconds apart. She even had a few that lasted three whole minutes, with only a minute and 45 seconds between. I was very nervous and wasn’t remembering much from our class at this point! I didn’t know what to say or what to do, and Tina was in increasing discomfort from her back and her hips were extremely tense (Tina’s Comment: I apparently wasn’t very good at relaxing…I ended up holding a lot of tension in my hips and that made things REALLY uncomfortable). She was also starting to get very tired, and it became obvious that I would need to do more to control things because she was losing herself in labor. I immediately called Sonia and told her the situation. Sonia listened to Tina groan and tried to talk to her, then decided that it was time to come to us.
I was able to get Tina on the bed after the call with Sonia in order to give her legs some rest. Her contractions on the bed were much more painful on her back and she was much louder; but I knew that even though they hurt more, it was necessary to lay on her side in bed for a while to save her strength. (Tina’s Comment: The contractions were certainly intense and powerful, but the actual pain was in my back and hips). Her contractions were so frequent that she wasn’t getting the usual amount of rest between them and therefore was getting tired more quickly. She needed to rest. The next 90 minutes were some of the most stressful and difficult for me because she was in obvious pain but nothing I could say or do would put a dent in it – no amount of massage (which, it became increasingly obvious, I wasn’t very good at), music (we listened to Krishna Das’s Baba Hanuman on repeat for 6 hours straight), talking or reassurance was helping.
When Sonia arrived at 6:30am, Tina had been in heavy labor for about 4 hours. She was exhausted and uncomfortable, laying on the bed and drinking as much as possible between contractions. I tried to get her to eat apple sauce and fruit mash, which she did on occasion, but I worried about her losing energy since it was so intense. Sonia and I took turns talking her through each contraction, and I tried to finish a few more tasks before I lost the opportunity.
A short while later her contractions became so intense that the only thing I could do was be there ready to hold her hand and talk her through it. Sonia was magnificent during this period. She knew where to rub without Tina asking, and she knew what to say to get her to calm down. This in turn helped me feel more in control, because now I didn’t have to pretend to know everything and could focus on what I was best suited for – comforting Tina. After several more intense contractions we tried taking Tina to the bathroom. She stayed there for a while and things progressed further, with my role shifting to comfort and hip massage – at this point, despite her efforts to relax, she had been so tense in her legs that her hips were in desperate need of relief. We continued like this for another 45 minutes or so, no longer timing contractions but instead focused on getting through each one individually. They were long and powerful; Sonia coached Tina on her breathing/moaning and rubbed her back while I massaged her hips and reassured her that she was safe. (Tina’s Comment: I no longer cared that I was pooping in front of Richard and Sonia. The toilet was a comfortable spot and I stayed there as long as I could.)
I was pouring some coffee when one of her contractions began and, though I had come in late for a few of the earlier ones, I knew this one was different because as soon as it started and I wasn’t there, she screamed for me and I ran in as fast as I could. I have never felt so helpless yet so important to her. I knew that I had to be there every time in order for her to make it through.
Shortly after that, we decided to leave the bathroom and head for the ball again, just to change things up. As we walked, another contraction came and Tina all but collapsed on the floor. I was so scared for her, but Sonia was calm and that kept me from panicking. Tina threw up some, which Sonia said was a good sign, and I started running a bath for her with the goal of getting her into the tub to rest.
Having moved into this apartment only 2 months ago, this was the first time we had ever used the tub in our 2nd bathroom, so I should not have been surprised when it failed to work at first. The seal on the plug didn’t engage for about 5 minutes, so water was running and both Tina and Sonia were eagerly awaiting a bath that just wasn’t filling up. When I saw how much pain Tina was in, I went back to the bathroom and jammed the plug as hard as I could – unsure if it would ever come back out, and not caring. It started to fill and a few minutes later we got her in. Tina was so relieved to be there. Her contractions slowed down at first and seemed a bit more manageable. She was able to eat some more apple sauce and talk a bit more. She looked at me and said “I just want to stay here. Next time we’re doing a water birth.” I smiled and told her we could do anything she wanted.
After a few contractions in the tub, things got even more intense. Tina started looking glassy eyed during contractions, and started twisting onto her side when they came. She was yelling loudly during them, and it looked like the bath was no longer helping. Sonia and I decided that soon we would need to head to the hospital, and I began checking on our bag and making sure I had all of the right information for when we arrived.
We got Tina out of the tub, but as soon as she was standing, she wanted to use the bathroom. (Tina’s Comment: I kept feeling like I had to poop, but apparently that was baby’s head moving his way down and me beginning the bear down.) She sat on the toilet around 8:00am and labored through a number of more contractions, each one more intense than the last. All she wanted was to lean on me during them and have Sonia rub her back. I was there for each one, but once was a little late and heard the panic in her voice when she needed me. I rushed over and knew we must be getting close – or had better be, because I could not bare to hear her cry like that again.
A few minutes later, between contractions, Tina declared that she didn’t think she could do it. Sonia and I both looked at each other and smiled, because we knew this was transition – the last major signpost before pushing. We were happy to be there, around 8:50am, but also knew we needed to get going to the hospital and couldn’t afford to wait any longer. We got Tina dressed through several more contractions and helped her walk towards the living room. She stopped to lean on a chair during a contraction and then collapsed in front of the couch on her knees during another, at which point Sonia rushed to put her shoes on so fast that they ended up on the wrong feet while I grabbed every paper that looked vaguely important and zipped up our “go bag” – which was stuffed to the brim with useless items for a labor that was just about over.
Sonia went to get her car while I helped Tina walk down the hall to the elevator. She had one contraction halfway there, and another when we got to the elevator bank. If the neighbors hadn’t been awakened already, they surely would be now! Once in the lobby we were making good progress towards the door, which Tynell (our doorman) held open with much more calm and patience than I would have expected under the circumstances, when another contraction hit, this one very intense while I held Tina up. As soon as we got outside we got into the back seat, Tina laying across it with her head in my lap. The GPS told us we had a 13 minute drive from our apartment to Lenox Hill Hospital, which was nothing short of a miracle thanks to the absence of traffic at 9:15am on a Sunday morning.
Tina went through a number of very intense contractions during our ride to the hospital, which were made all the worse because being in a car is the worst place for any contraction. As we made it over the bridge I called Dr. Elliston & Ng’s office, but only got voicemail – I even tried the alternate number, but got voicemail for some other doctor whose name I do not remember. I knew we would just need to spread the word once we got to the hospital. Each contraction in the car was long and painful, and all I could do was reassure Tina that we were getting there and would meet Burrito soon.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we pulled up in front of the valet and sought help – which was provided by one of the least useful people Sonia or I had ever encountered. He brought a wheelchair, but had no idea how to use it and spent what felt like an eternity trying to get it up the curb. He then wheeled us into the building, where Tina’s loud screams (Tina’s Comment: Richard describes them as screams but in my head I was just moaning VERY loudly – haha). and my panic got us past admissions without an ID or signature. Then the valet left us at the elevator bank, without so much as a word or an instruction – I was beside myself, but had to focus on Tina. I pushed the button for the second floor, though Tina corrected me that it was on the 6th floor during the middle of a contraction. A gentleman we shared the elevator with mused that this must be our first baby…
When we got out on the 6th floor, Tina’s screams were met by a nurse who helped us into the triage room. The staff were having a slow morning and this certainly put a pep in their step! They did not know our names, we had not checked in, and all we had to work with was the fact that Tina was clearly in full-blown labor. As soon as they checked her they announced that the baby’s head was “right there”, which was music to her hears; Tina later confessed that she was terrified they would tell her “ok great – 5cm, keep going!” (Tina’s Comment: I was terrified that I was just being a big wuss and that everything that happened previously was the easy part. Looking back, we arrived at the hospital at the exact right time. Between Dr. Ng telling me I was 2cm dilated a week before and the time I arrived at the hospital, I had absolutely no vaginal exams to tell me how I was progressing and I am so thankful that I didn’t. It felt so much more natural and comfortable to rely on my own instincts – even if I was second-guessing them from time to time.)
They took her vitals and I shared our birth plan with the staff, who were surprised to learn that we wanted a non-medicated birth, which was just as well, since we came too late for an epidural anyway! (Tina’s Comment: Perfect timing! If we had gotten to the hospital earlier, the temptation of an epidural may have been too much and I probably would have taken it. I’m so glad we go there when we did because I would have been disappointed if I had “given in.”)
A few minutes later we were moved from the triage room to a delivery room, where Tina continued to have powerful contractions. She had been wheeled into the room on the triage bed, which did not have all of the features of a delivery bed and could not rotate into a squatting position to help with delivery, so we had to get her from one to the other. This turned into a spectacle, as two beds had to be squeezed in and Tina shifted from one to the other between contractions, but we got it done.
We shifted Tina into a more upright position to help her push, and then waited for the urge to come. I reminded each new nurse or doctor (or anyone who looked like a nurse or doctor) that we didn’t want any medication. I then finally was asked a few questions by the staff so they could figure out who we were – by this point we had been in the hospital for about an hour, and hadn’t so much as signed our names into security.
Dr. Elliston arrived a few minutes later as the staff were getting Burrito’s vital signs. Tina pushed several times, making small progress. I held her hand each time and reassured her that it would be ok, making sure she knew she was safe and that Burrito would be fine. After 20 minutes of pushing, Dr. Elliston broke her waters, which we quickly learned had meconium in them. This was hard news for us at first, because it meant that the doctors would need to suction out baby’s airway once he was born to make sure he didn’t aspirate any meconium. That meant no delay in cord clamping, and no immediate skin-to-skin contact like we planned. In the big picture, though, we knew it was the right thing because his safety was most important.
Tina continued to push and was making good but slow progress. For about 30 minutes, during and between each push she had the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. She was relaxed, happy and ready, even though it was hard work. (Tina’s Comment: I loved pushing! Finally, I felt like I could do something instead of have something simply happen to me. Also, what felt “slow” to Richard felt incredibly fast for me. In reality, it was about 2 hours, but it felt like 20 minutes.)
Around 10:40am, though, the staff lost track of Burrito’s heartbeat. They thought it had just dropped, but then realized it was Tina’s heartbeat that they had. This caused us to worry and I was very scared. I didn’t know what it meant or if he would be ok, and Tina was just as scared. I could see her face go from joy to fear, and then to a resolve to push him out and get him to safety. Each push was harder and longer than the last. After 10 minutes or so, she was exhausted and cried out that she just wanted him to be ok. I cried and so did she. Dr. Elliston did all she could to massage around and use oils to help. (Tina’s Comment: The main nurse…who was amazing…turned me to my left side when baby’s heart rate dropped. I didn’t like it at first, but then realized pushing from a side-lying position was actually more comfortable for me.)
At 11am or so we could see his head for the first time, full of hair and peeking out. I knew we were close, and held Tina’s hand as she pushed harder and harder. His head came slowly out, and Tina was so focused on getting Burrito to safety that she pushed as hard as she could. (Tina’s Comment: It was really difficult to distinguish between my internal urge to push and the thoughts firing in my head about my baby being in trouble. Looking back, I pushed harder and faster than I probably should have…resulting in a 2nd degree tear. The recovery isn’t fun, but was a small price to pay for the safe delivery of our son.)
It happened so fast! One minute only his hairy little head was visible, the next his whole body was gushing out. And he looked magnificent. Dr. Elliston cut the cord and the nurses brought him across the room to a table to be washed off and suctioned out. He looked so helpless and scared, crying and reaching out for someone to hold him. A few minutes later Tina was finally able to have him on her chest and we were able to officially meet our son. I fell in love and cried the happiest tears of my life. I hugged Tina and held her close while she cried. Our Burrito was safe, and he was finally here to join us.
Our baby boy weighed a healthy 6 pounds, 13 ounces and was 19 inches long (Tina’s Comment: Now at 2.5 months, almost 14 pounds and just over 24 inches). He is our pride and joy and every day with him makes our lives happier and more fulfilled.