After two weeks of the blissful newborn haze, I'm finally sitting down to write our daughter's birth story.
Birthing Philomena is by far the hardest thing I have ever done in my life...and the most rewarding. I now understand that it's something that you just can't explain to someone who hasn't done it - in part because it's such a different experience for each woman, too. So here is the PG version. If you want the NC-17 version, then let's go out for coffee. ;)
Philomena Marie Johnson was born on June 9th, 2015 at 1:04pm (at 40 weeks and 6 days). But I went into labor 42 hours before on the evening of June 7th....and it all started with yoga.
On Sundays I would usually go to the 4:30p prenatal yoga class at Dragonfly Yoga in Middleton - but I was so tired at almost 41 weeks pregnant. My friend Kelly texted me that she was going, and after some convincing from my husband, I decided to go last minute. About an hour after yoga, I started to feel my first contractions - and when they say "you'll know" they are different than Braxton Hicks, they weren't kidding.
For the next 4 hours, we timed the contractions, taking walks around the neighborhood and starting to take care of some last minute things around the house. Tim packed a bag, I threw some frozen cookie dough I had made for the nurses into the oven, and I called our doula, Ruby. Sunday night the contractions were about 8-12 minutes apart, lasting about 60 seconds. We wanted to labor at home as much as possible as we wanted an unmedicated birth (see labor strategy here).
My mum arrived from Milwaukee at about 11p to take care of the pup in case we needed to go to the hospital in the night. Sunday night into Monday, I got about 4 hours of sleep on and off between contractions, and by the next morning, they were anywhere between 6-10 minutes apart, and what I thought to be increasing in intensity.
On Monday, we passed the time with several movies (Star Wars and WALL-E) and took many walks around the block. A heating pad felt like heaven on my lower back, and massage during contractions helped alleviate some of the pain and pressure. By the late afternoon, my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, and I could no longer could talk through them. So with that new information, our doula sent us to the hospital! For all the laboring I had been doing, we anticipated that I was at least 4-5 cm, and that we could meet our little one before midnight. We were so wrong.
Between our house and the St. Mary's OB triage desk, I had 6 of my strongest contractions yet...but in triage, they told me I was only 2-3 cm and 80% effaced. That was a LOT of work for 2-3 cm. But I was definitely in labor, so they admitted me, and we were off to our birth suite.
I spent the next 6 hours laboring - contraction after contraction. Every couple minutes, breathing through the pain and pressure, having someone rub my back and hips, and mentally going to my happy place. We walked the halls, used the exercise ball, utilized the tub, and ate the free popsicles. Sometimes I would have such crazy intense contractions that I would throw up. And at one point, I was throwing up so hard that I got a bloody nose. I probably looked like a horror movie.
At midnight, they checked me again, and to my dismay I was maybe 4cm. Ouch. Talk about being discouraged. But my awesome coaches, Tim and doula Ruby, kept me positive and reminded me how much progress that actually is - and that once you hit 5cm, things will fly.
I labored for another 5 hours - same deal as the previous 6 hours. Intense contractions, walking, tubbing, vomiting. At 5am on Tuesday, they checked me again. I was at 5cm. At this point, I'd been laboring for about 36 hours and was mentally and physically exhausted, not to mention discouraged that I wasn't further along for all the work my body had been doing. AND I still had to push...something that always in the back of my head. I specifically remember thinking to myself, "how in the world am I going to finish this?!" This was my "hitting the wall" moment, something that they prep you for in birth class.
So, I asked for something to take the edge off so I could rest for a while. Enter this wonderful narcotic drug that they added to my IV that allowed me to rest for an hour or so. I was able to sleep in between contractions and get some rest.
I still wasn't progressing enough, and my doctor started to discuss options to move things along. We first tried the natural options, including breaking my bag of waters. That brought me to 6cm - progress, but not enough.
At 7am, we got a new nurse during the morning shift change. She called herself the baby whisperer, and told me, "I'm going to get this baby out. But, it's going to get worse before it get's better, so honey, buckle up!"
At this point, we started to talk about introducing some pitocin to make the contractions more productive. (Pitocin is a drug that causes the uterus to contract harder and faster to help dilation). This was the drug that I wanted to avoid at all costs because typically when you get pitocin, the contractions are so intense that you need an epidural. But, I was running out of options - and out of energy. So they started me on a small dose of pitocin, and within an hour and a half of the most painful contractions yet, I was at 9.5 cm.
At around 10:45am, I felt a crazy urge to push. But, I still had 1/2 cm to clear. For a half hour, I had to breathe through contractions without pushing to finish dilating, which was one of the hardest parts of the entire birth. All I remember was Tim's face in front of me, coaching me to breathe. I finally was allowed to push around 11am, and two hours later at 1:04pm, she was born!
She came out all purple and screaming - and with a full head of dark hair. She also pooped all over me within the first 2 minutes of her life! I'll be sure to tell everyone that story at her high school graduation party.
When Philly came out, I was relieved, in awe, so in love, and so incredibly tired. It was a surreal experience - as soon as she was out, I immediately forgot the past 42 hours (although I would remember them later).
Philomena Marie was 7 lb, 1oz and was 19.5 inches long and very healthy with an APGAR score of 9. I've had many people ask, how did you come up with her name? Philomena was my maternal grandma's name, and Marie is the middle name of Tim's mom. We've been calling her Philly Bean, which suits her well.
Reflecting on the birthing experience, I'm so incredibly happy with how things turned out considering how long it took. Even though I had to embrace some medical interventions, I couldn't have delivered her naturally without introducing the narcotic drug and the pitocin. I knew that Tim would be an amazing coach - he truly was my rock (and our relationship reached a whole new level of weird - in a good way). Our amazing doula was with us for almost 24 hours, and I know that I was able to handle a 42 hour labor because of her guidance and support. It really does take a village, and the energy that Tim, Ruby, and the amazing nurses at St. Mary's brought allowed me to do what I did.