Labor Blogging

This is the labor blog of Andy, Natalie, Samantha and Zoe Yates - eagerly awaiting the arrival of baby Nicholas, due November 15th, set to be born at home in Minnesota with the aide of a birthing tub. The log will be maintained through the active birth process, though I make no assurances about frequency of updates.
Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Monday, November 18, 2002
(Fair warning - I consider Andy's earlier post about the birth to be the clean & condensed version and this one is going to have the nitty gritty details. If you're a squeamish person you may want to skip this post.)

So it was Saturday and I'd been having sporadic contractions off and on for most of the day but there was nothing constant about them - eight minutes apart, then ten, then six, all lasting around thirty to forty seconds. I was hanging out in the front room after the girls went to sleep and thinking that I should call the midwife just to give her a "head's up" so that she'd have time to take a nap before I went into full labor. Like Andy, I expected my labor to be an all-nighter and I was sure that Saturday was the night.

I lost my plug around ten or so and called the midwife - in my other two pregnancies I hadn't lost my plug or had my water break so it was a pretty unfamiliar thing. I know that some women lose their plugs weeks before going into labor so I didn't think a whole lot of it but I put down a chux pad just in case. I laid down to rest and around eleven o'clock I heard this huge pop like a shotgun or something and felt something inside snap. I was completely confused and sat up, wondering what had happened, when I felt the water begin to spill out. No one told me that you can actually hear the popping if it's quiet enough.

I had Andy call the midwife while I dealt with my waters and she said they'd all be arriving shortly - I think he called her around quarter past eleven or so. Right after my water broke I started having some really intense contractions and wanted to get into the water but I'd heard that if you got into the tub too early it could slow things down. Through my contractions I'd visualized myself swimming in the ocean and each contraction was a wave I had to swim over and coast down the other side but this quickly turned into wave upon wave and the crests were higher and higher until the whole ocean, it seemed, had turned into one giant mountain of a wave. It's funny that I was trying to talk myself into swimming up this huge wave when in real life I can barely doggie paddle.

Anyway, one of the students arrived first around midnight and helped me into the tub - I cannot describe the bliss I felt at that warm water surrounding me. The contractions were still very painful to me on the inside but on the outside it was comfortable. I stretched out and even managed to joke around a little bit about buying a birthing tub to keep in the dining room "just because". We were talking, laughing, and then blam came the urge to push. I totally wasn't ready for that and I spent a good ten or fifteen minutes trying to find a good position but nothing seemed to work for me. On my hands and knees felt the best but the contractions didn't seem to be as productive as I'd expected. Squatting wasn't quite right, and various sitting positions were all discarded. They all had a little something that made them very good positions in the grand scheme of things and I was actually quite impressed with how creative my mind became when thinking of those positions but it just wasn't happening. And I was turning into a monster.

I posted before about the cursing but more than that I was screaming. At each contraction I would bear down to push and all I could think was, "I just want to tear this pool apart and beat everyone senseless! Oh, is the contraction over? Good, let me sleep." Total Jekyll and Hyde - I calmed down so much between contractions that I'm sure I just passed out into sleep a few times. At least, I remember "snapping out of it" when the next contraction came and finding myself lying in someone's arms, limp. I started to get worried about that - how is it that I was falling asleep between contractions? I started telling the midwife that something wasn't right but I couldn't explain it - it's hard to articulate anything when you're contracting - but the student thought that maybe the water was just a bit too warm for me and maybe I should get out for a bit. The midwife wanted me to try a couple of contractions on the birthing stool - a foreboding little number made of a solid piece of metal piping that runs a bar under each knee and under your backside - so I jumped on there with Andy behind me for support.

The contractions seemed to be a lot more productive in this position so I stayed there...the trouble is, though, that the more productive the contractions are the more they hurt. Poor Andy was trying to hold me up as I was collapsing between contractions but when I would lean forward to push he must have been thinking I was falling over because he wouldn't let his grip loosen. I remember yelling at him a couple of times, and grabbing the stool under me and jumping with it like I was riding a bucking bronco or something. At this point I felt like I'd been pushing forever...we'd chosen to have the tub in front of an eastern facing door for the sunrise (like I said, Andy and I both figured the labor would last all night) and I didn't understand why I couldn't see the sun coming up. I kept thinking to myself that once the sun came up everything would be fine, like in horror movies. But the sun wasn't shining and I got a little depressed, thinking my son was being born on a cloudy, overcast day.

The midwife asked me if I wanted to get back into the tub to finish up but I really couldn't move - I was disappointed about that because I really had my heart set on the gentle birth for Nic that a tub would have provided but I was too far into the process to even think about changing positions.

A few more pushes brought Nic's head into the world and I watched him emerge - the midwife told me to slow down for the shoulders so that I didn't tear myself but I wasn't going to be able to stop. But before I could push I felt this enormous amount of pressure and I screamed, "What did you do, push him back in?!?" I later found out that the cord was around his neck a little so they had to pull him over to the side so that it would slacken enough to be removed. That was, I can honestly say, the most painful part of the ordeal.

Looking down at a little head whose body was still inside my body was the single most surreal experience I've ever had in my life. Nic was very present - his eyes had opened and he was looking around for a bit. Seeing that made me just stop and stare at him, at what I was watching happen. Andy looked and for the first time since I'd gone into labor he actually stopped shaking - it was like time stood still for a brief moment.

I pushed again and didn't feel any burning so I was fairly confident that I hadn't torn myself - despite having had two episiotomies previously - and the rest of him just slid out with almost no effort. He was handed to me and wrapped up and I just sat on the stool, shaking, and staring at my little guy. Again, he opened his eyes briefly, seemed to look at me, sighed and went to sleep. So I guess that even though he wasn't born in the tub it must not have been too traumatic an ordeal for him.

The girls had come upstairs by then and were standing there, watching. Zoe wasn't sure what to make of him, nor of the three women that were covered in blood in my dining room, but she recovered quickly enough to launch into a story about Christmas or pumpkin patches or something. Samantha immediately asked about cutting the cord and she stood by while I passed the placenta. I'd explained to her what the placenta was and what it did but I think it surprised her to see it. I'd warned Andy that the placenta was coming so he stepped to the other side of the room and looked out the window while Samantha cut the cord.

I'd finally begun to regain my senses when I heard Andy telling one of the students that he'd noted the exact time of Nic's birth as 1.13. That shocked me completely, as I honestly thought that it was at least six or seven in the morning. It hadn't even been two hours of labor and here was my guy sleeping on my chest - it didn't seem real to me.

We got tucked into bed and checked over - no problems, everything was perfect - and were finally left alone around four in the morning. The girls were put back in bed and Andy and I sat up admiring our son for a few hours, despite being exhausted. In the past twenty-four hours we've talked a lot about our experience and we both agree that the reason our labor was so short was because we were so comfortable being in our home. Like I said, I was disappointed that I didn't have the water birth I'd intended but at least having the tub present and as an option went a long way in making me feel more prepared. If I had to do it over again I don't think I would have chosen to get into the tub, despite my disappointment, because seeing Nic's face like I did was what made it the most magical. Andy hugging me from behind and us gazing at our son coming into the world was the most perfect thing I've ever experienced in my life, and probably ever will.

I'm recovering much more quickly than I expected to - again, we put this down to being at home rather than in a hospital - and I didn't tear after all. In fact, there's no swelling and only a slight bit of bruising, and one teensy tiny rug-burn type chafe on the outside but nothing that needed repairing or attention. Nic had a bit of bruising on the side of his head where he'd turned his face during birth rather than keeping his head down but that's all but faded.

One thing that's surprised me is the pain I have in my abdomen - it's like having contractions every time Nic nurses which I've been told is fairly common but it never happened with the girls. My midwife told me a great story: after she had her third child - which, incidentally, was her first home birth - she began having these contraction-type pains (which are excruciating to say the least). She was going through all of her herbal remedies seeking relief that just wouldn't come. So she had a chat with a couple of old hippy midwife friends of hers that were sort-of mentoring her and she mentioned the pain and admitted that she broke down and had taken some Advil. They were aghast and said to her, "We took Tylenol 3 with ours - that's some serious pain!" If dyed-in-the-wool hippies recommend narcotics for pain you know it's intense.

But back to Nic...he's a strong little guy - when lying on my chest yesterday he lifted his face to me and turned his head without so much as a wobble. He has remarkable neck and head control for one so young. He's not one who likes being left alone, even when he's sleeping, but at the moment that's not a problem seeing as how we're all practically fighting over who gets to hold him, and even who gets to lay next to him in the bed. Zoe was jealous at first but she's over that and is just enjoying being a sister now. Samantha is fantastic, but I didn't worry about her at all since she's gone through this before when Zoe was born. The dogs are another story altogether...any time Nic whimpers or cries at all the dogs crowd around with very concerned looks on their faces. You wouldn't think that a dog could be so expressive but the way they crinkle their eyebrows together looks like they're wondering what's wrong and what can they do to help? Even now with Nic lying on my chest asleep the dogs are circling.

Andy has taken the girls out today for a special "Daddy/Daughters" lunch and shopping for baby dolls. Samantha is going to teach Zoe how to be a more gentle sister by using a doll rather than Nic, as Zoe's a little heavy-handed with him at the moment. It will all come in time, I'm sure, but the sooner she learns, the better, since it's going to be just Zoe, Nic and I during the day for a while and I could use all the help I can get from her.

So that's pretty much the long and short of our story...more the "long" of it, admittedly, but this has just been such a huge, wonderful event for us that I don't want to willingly edit anything out, though I'm sure I missed a hundred and one details. When I get a chance I'm going to go edit some of the pictures that were taken and post them here but in the meantime I think I've blathered on long enough. Now I'm off to enjoy my son.

Sunday, November 17, 2002
I'll post the whole birth story from "my side" as Andy said but that will come later.

Naturally, I've given birth to the most beautiful boy in the world and he's smart, too...I can tell. Rakish good looks, flirty smile, bedroom eyes...and charming! You've never seen one so charming. The way he can work a room and make you feel like you're the most important person there is something that our celebrities strive for but never achieve. I'm seeing him as James Bond when he gets a little older...people will say, "Well, Roger Moore was alright; Sean Connery wasn't exactly my favorite; Pierce Brosnon tried his best...but that Nic Yates! Now he was James Bond all over!"

I just hope he gets over that whole spitting up thing before the movies are set for production.

Honestly, the birth was very quick and effective (read: painful as hell) and I did use some rather colorful language that was unexpected enough that it even shocked me out of what was going on long enough for me to chastise myself for soiling the ears of my lovely midwife and her two students. At one point the midwife was doing the whole "push against my fingers, push my fingers out" thing and I grabbed her arm and threw it to the side, calling her some names in the process and accusing her of being sadistic and deliberately trying to hurt me. I remember saying something like, "I don't need you here, what are you even doing to help me?" and shouting, "Something's not right!" over and over again. The midwife looked at me cooly and said, "Oh, so I guess you want to go to the hospital, then?" and I realized I was just complaining so I changed my tune to "I can do it, I can do it!" Very "Bob the Builder". Heck, if I weren't so tired after the birth I'd have broken into the Dora "We Did It!" song as well.

But I was tired, and I am tired now so I'm going to retire to bed with my little man. I'm sure Andy will post some photos soon, as he's had a couple of cups of tea already while I just want to lie back down.

Wow. That was fast. I called the midwives at 11:10, after scrambling around looking for the phone for five minutes. In the hour that it took for them to get here from St Paul, Natalie started heavy contractions. Based on previous experience, I'd put on a pot of coffee in readiness for a long, long night.

By the time the first midwife got here, Natalie was begging to get into the birthing pool where she remained for around 55 minutes. As you can imagine some colorful language was screamed around the house (Bean and Sam were asleep downstairs in the basement).

At the suggestion of the midwife, at around 00:55, Natalie got out of the pool and sat on the birthing stool. Fifteen minutes of pushing, cursing and very loud screaming later, at 01:13, little Nicholas arrived, weighing in at 7lb 8oz.

Bean and Sam joined us just in time to say hello, having been awoken by the screams but awaiting the OK to surface.

Much picture taking took place and Samantha cut the chord because I am so bad with blood and the like. Little Nic had his first scrub down at around 03:00 and was weighed and measured.

The midwives left at around 04:00 having declared the birth pretty efficient.

I only cried once, although I did get chastised by Natalie for holding her a little too tight.

Of the three births I've seen, that was the quickest by a factor of at least five. It was actually more intense than the previous ones just because of the speed and this one is the first where I haven't had the flu.

So Nic is here and sleeping. I'm sure I've forgotten to mention lots due to fatigue but as I remember tomorrow (which is actually today), I'll update and I'm sure Natalie will want to share her side of the story.

To finish for tonight, one of the highlights while in the throws of labor, was a scream "How did I get pregnant? I don't want to be pregnant."

All the fears have gone and sure enough, there's my boy!

Saturday, November 16, 2002
It's started in earnest. Of course, AT&T have decided that their definition of a broadband connection is about 30bps (which is all we have had since 13:00 today).

The 'plug' has gone. The midwife has said to call her back when Natalie's water breaks or when the contractions are 3-4 minutes apart and 1 minute in length.

And as I typed that, Natalie's water broke at 23:03.

I'm petrified.
Oh, if you had any idea what I've had to put up with just to get to this blog you'd have a whole new appreciation for me, honestly. Our broadband connection is flaking out because of "routine maintenance work in your area" - if it's so routine why did it happen on a Friday night, surely one of the heaviest surfing nights of the week? Ach, gives me a headache. Anyway, I'm in now - hopefully this won't time out on me before I can post.

So my due date has come and gone with nary a peep from my little man. That's not entirely true; he's been making his presence known in the only way he knows how, which is to say I've been having those odd contractions again. But I feel okay about it like I didn't before.

I saw the midwife today and broke down and asked for an internal just to check out what was going on down there. As much as I love the typical "hands off" approach of the midwife a part of me wanted to know if I was progressing or not. The student midwife first checked me and told the midwife what was going on - the midwife then demonstrated how everything was positioned by using a baby doll and a knit bag that looked suspiciously like a handbag I'd lost at a Grateful Dead concert a few years back. The student midwife wasn't sure how dilated I was so the midwife checked the beginning of the exam I was around two centimeters. Not too shabby, eh? More conversation took place and the baby/bag combo made another appearance - the midwife was once again checking out my bits and bobs when I began to dilate further. All told, I'm dilated now between three and four centimeters. (For the guys reading this, if there are any, the magic number is ten centimeters...for many women, the first half is the hardest.)

Everything is soft and pliable and the baby is in the optimal position for a gravy baby - that is, this has all the markings of being a smooth birth. Of course, I'm not silly enough to believe it will go that easily just because my body's ready for it but it helped put my mind at ease. It also made me feel a lot better about these false-starts I've been having...I swear, Andy's going to get a "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" complex if I tell him "I'm sure this is it!" just one more time and don't follow through.

After leaving the midwife we went to see Harry Potter...not too shabby of a film. Better than the first one, still not as good as I'd anticipated, but the girls loved it. I was more taken with the self-serve butter topping stations located through the cinema...I know the stuff is just fat and is terrible for you but there's something so comforting and decadent about eating popcorn slathered in lard. Ooh, now I'm wishing I was back there.

Anyway, we came home and, as per the midwife's prediction, the contractions started again. Andy made a hasty retreat into his den, only popping out occasionally to say, "You have to let me know when you're contracting - I'm the timing guy!" and duck away. He panics so easily that I didn't want to tell him how quickly the contractions were coming because I instinctively knew that they'd slow at some point. No reason to get him worked up if I could help it - there will be plenty of that later.

We began filling up the birthing tub and Zoe was ecstatic. "Mommy and Zoe take a bath!" was her mantra of the evening. The tub is plenty large enough to fit all four of us when I'm in labor but I don't want to commit to anything by telling the girls they'll be able to get in with me in case I need the personal space. I doubt Andy would want to get in can't pace when you're sitting in a tub. Of course, since Samantha wants to help catch the baby she'll be in there with me when the time comes - I'd rather have Andy do that but I have to be sensitive to his aversions to blood and what he classifies as "medical stuff", which I still think is so cute. A home waterbirth is probably the furthest thing from being described as "medical stuff" but I take his point.

When my contractions slowed down around nine tonight I was suddenly overcome with a desperate urge to have my kids around me. I just wanted to hold them and hug up with them so we all three climbed into my bed and watched a movie together. It was a bit surreal because none of us were focused on the movie, we were all focused on one another. There was a strange and wonderful level of intimacy between us all - my nine year old who saw me through the birth of my three year old who is ready to watch her brother being born, all curled up under the covers and just generally loving each other. For a moment I was acutely aware that this birth we're all preparing for is set to shift the balance and I briefly thought of my new son as a form of intruder, like he was descending upon us and breaking apart our harmony. Then I remembered what Andy had said once when I voiced the fear that the new baby would shift the family dynamic - he told me that our situation was only going to be enhanced by the arrival of our little man. I believe him and feel a bit guilty about my doubts over the baby. I'm sure it's a natural feeling to have, and it's not like I dwell on it, but for nearly three years we've been a team of our girls and I especially wondered how Zoe would handle being promoted away from "baby of the family". I'm sure she'll love it but I'm a mom, so I worry. It's what moms do best.

I tucked the girls in around ten, still thinking that this could be the last time they fall asleep with our family as it is. Tomorrow could very easily be the day that they're both big sisters...maybe that's where my feelings are coming from, maybe I'm not ready to let Zoe grow like that yet. Samantha was nearly seven when Zoe was born and I can remember so clearly looking at Samantha just after giving birth to Zoe and practically being able to see the baby fat fall from her body. I'd gone in as a pregnant mom with a little girl and came out with a new baby and a blossoming little woman - it really stripped the scales from my eyes and I suddenly saw Samantha as much older...that's not the right way to say it...I saw her as her age, when before she'd been locked into this "my little girl" thing that I was projecting onto her. We both grew up a lot that day, for the better, so I have every faith that after Nic is born that Zoe and I will come to a similar understanding. I have to let Zoe grow up to be who she is rather than hope to lock her into "my baby" mode forever. It's bittersweet, indeed, but we'll make the most of it, I'm sure.

So we're looking ahead to the 16th as being the day Nicholas arrives. Now that it's so close I wish I would have appreciated the journey more than I did but there's no sense in dwelling on that. We haven't yet arrived so I still have some time. I think...I mean, these contractions have started again but for now I'm going to go lie down and really contemplate what my body is getting ready to accomplish. I can't wait for my gravy baby.

Friday, November 15, 2002
Today is the day I never thought I'd reach - my due date. I swore up and down that I was going to go early and I've had enough false starts to convince me that I was this close to welcoming little Nicholas into the world but I was wrong. (There, Andy, Mr. "You thought you were going early with Zoe the last time, too but you didn't so stop worrying so much" - I've admitted I was wrong and you were right...savor the flavor because that's not going to happen again any time soon!)

My midwife has already advised me that if I hit my due date that I should feel free to participate in a couple of the activities that typically, um, start the process. In case you're unaware, this includes walking and being intimate...and to tell you the truth, neither option suits me at the moment. For one, I haven't "walked" in months - I've done more of a crab-walk/waddle thing that hurts my ankles. And that second option? Well, I'm not even going to get into this point I'm not even comfortable being looked at, let alone touched.

The upshot of all of this is that a lot of the weird aches and pains I've had in the past few months seem to have disappeared and I'm hoping this means that whatever bones needed to soften and spread have already done what they need to do to make room for the baby. I've talked myself into being so afraid of labor this time around and I wish I would just stop it and be a little more brave about the whole thing. Last night at Samantha's basketball game I was speaking to a woman who was holding her beautiful three-month-old baby. It was her third child and she told me that she'd spooked herself about the labor as well - she said she was crying so hard, saying over and over again, "I can't do it, I give up!" when her doctor said, "Give up on what? Your baby is out." I'm hoping I don't make a fool of myself like that.

Now I'm off to get ready for what will hopefully be my last appointment with my midwife. My plan is to see her, hear that everything with the baby is perfect, go see Harry Potter with my girls (I'm letting the eldest play hookey today...not just to see the movie, but because it's my due date and I'd planned to let her stay home anyway if the baby hadn't arrived early), have lunch, deliver the baby by, say, seven tonight, and spend the weekend in bed. That's the plan, anyway, though I fully reserve the right to change it at a moment's notice. (Neither of my other kids listen to what I say, so why should this baby be any different...)

Here's hoping that I'm among the 5% of women who deliver when they're due!

Thursday, November 14, 2002
So I've managed to find what insurance was billed for Samantha's part in her own birth…looking at these dollar amounts is really irritating me. I wonder how people without insurance manage to afford having children?

R&C Newborn, 2 days at $260 - $520
Laboratory - $339.70
Cardio-pulmonary - $27 (I don’t even know what this is, or why she and I were charged the same amount for it?)
Medical supplies - $238.65
Pharmacy - $115.10
Labor and delivery - $883.00

Grand total billed to insurance: $2123.45

For the both of us, that’s $7384.09 that our insurance plan paid. I know I’m harping on about it a bit, but it’s just incredible to me that they can get away with this while simultaneously denying coverage for homebirths.

Rant over with, I promise!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002
I came across the bill for Samantha's birth from nearly ten years ago...these charges aren't for her part in the ordeal (which was charged separately and I can't seem to find her statement) but merely what the hospital charged for me. It's like a Mastercard commercial except without the "priceless" part at the end...this was a completely uncomplicated birth:

2 day stay in hospital, semi-private room, at $500 - $1000
Laboratory charges - $493.80
Cardio-pulmonary - $27
Medical supplies - $400.98
Pharmacy - $212.19
Labor and delivery - $3126.67

Grand total billed to insurance: $5260.64

Keep in mind, that's the total for my charges only, not for anything Samantha required. That pharmacy bill doesn't even include any proper pain medication, as I had a drug-free labor...that's what the total is when they finish charging you $16 per Advil. AND, the cost of prenatal doctors visits are not included in the above figures, but you could just imagine how high they ran. At least a few hundred bucks per visit with at least two visits per month, plus lab work, up to weekly visits for the last month to month and a half of pregnancy. It's criminal.

Now compare that to our charges for our homebirth - $3000 straight up for all prenatal care and delivery in the comfort of my own home, postnatal visits in my home, $200 for birthing tub rental and maybe $50 for supplies needed in labor, including sitz bath mixtures and herbal remedies.

The most shocking part of this, though, is that many insurance companies won't pay a dime for a homebirth, despite the fact that it saves them so much money.

The three sweetest words in the English language are not, in fact, "I love you". I'd have to say they are, "Insurance Benefits Assigned".


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