In honor of Bella's birthday: her birth story. It only took me ten years...
About a week before my due date I moved back into my parents' house, where I slept in my childhood bedroom. This was because my Ob-Gyn, Dr. S., was my father's partner, and also the same doctor I'd been seeing since I was eighteen. No one wanted me to have to travel to Long Island from the city whilst in labor. It wasn't half bad having my parents watching over me and feeding me, like I was a child again. But there wasn't much to do other than wait, and being away from home really put a big black exclamation mark over that magical and elusive due date.
When that date came, January 22nd, 2003, I started work on my labor project, an idea I took from the inspirational book, Birthing From Within. I made a birthday cake for my little Sunshine, the name we called her throughout my pregnancy, not knowing that she was a she. If only I had actually been in labor... (We stuck the cake in the freezer and brought it to the hospital after Bella was born, where we shared it with the nursing staff. No awards for me in the cake-decorating dept., I know.)
A few days later, I started having daily non-stress tests (a half hour or so strapped to the fetal monitor) at the doctor's office. At each test, Dr. S. said, "The baby sounds great. We can induce you now, you know."
Josh and I took a lot of walks, as I was determined to move the baby down and get labor going. It was freezing out, one of those bitter winter weeks, so we found a place to walk inside: up and down every aisle of Target and Best Buy and Home Depot. I thought maybe Sunshine was staying put because it was simply too cold out for babies (or because she was afraid of big box stores).
On day five or six, the doctor's message changed slightly: "Soon it will be time to get that baby out." She stripped my membranes (ow!) and said, "You're really not dilated at all. Maybe a one." What I heard was: Nothing's happening. Your body is not doing what it needs to. That baby is never coming out without our help.
On day seven, at the prospect of Josh having to leave to go back to work in the city, I gave up. I didn't want to be induced. I knew that inductions with first babies have a higher rate of resulting in Caesarean births. But I was beyond ready to be done with the waiting and to meet my baby.
When I arrived in the hospital (straight from the doctor's office) for my induction on January 29th, I was already having patterned contractions, which had been happening on and off for days. I hadn't slept well the past two nights, and I was already tired. The doctor inserted a Cervidil suppository, and I had to stay in bed with a large uncomfortable plastic belt around my middle. (Whoosh, whoosh, thump, thump..the sound of that monitor never ending; Josh staring at the printouts because there was little else to do.) "In the morning, we'll start you on pitocin," Dr. S. said. Then, pregnant herself, she went home to sleep.
When the contractions soon became strong, I was very thankful to have my wonderful doula, Jill Fransen, at my side. She encouraged me to ask for permission to walk around, and reminded me to practice techniques to get through each contraction. I had prepared for this. I believed then, as I do now, in the mind-body connection that allows a woman to give birth. I tried to gain strength from my (hokey) piece of birth art (another Birthing From Within inspiration), and reminded myself what I had to do.
I don't have a good sense of the timing or details of what happened next, but lucky for me, Jill wrote a detailed description of the birth.
Tomorrow: Part Two, Jill's account of Bella's birth.