I am so excited to share the story of Noah's birth! I have already written about the morning that my water broke, so I will pick up from where I left off. Ryan and I enjoyed the morning together, and my contractions slowly became a little closer together and a little stronger. They were completely manageable, as I had approximately 4-5 minutes to just relax between contractions. At this point, it just felt like menstrual cramps that would come for about a minute and then would be gone for a bit. Since the amniotic fluid was clear when my water broke, and my beta strep test came back negative, Dr. Soper said to just hang out until my contractions were every 5 minutes for an hour. We had been in touch with Julie (our birth doula) throughout the morning, and we invited her to join us at noon, thinking that things would probably have picked up a little more by then. After she arrived, Julie and I talked about how things were going while Ryan continued to pack up the car and get other things finished up. He was calm, collected, and excited that the day had finally arrived! Once everything was ready to go, Ryan, Julie, and I went on a walk around the neighborhood to try to make the contractions come even closer together, as well as to increase their intensity. So Ryan got the dogs on leashes, and our journey around the neighborhood began. The walk was great and completely helped to continue everything down the path of stronger labor. The amniotic fluid continued to leak all morning, which is completely annoying I have to say! You see, when your water breaks, it's often just the amniotic fluid between the baby's head and your cervix that comes out. The leaking continues as the baby's head moves off your cervix, which can happen from contractions, from changing positions, etc. So, with the help of some washcloths, I was able to get around pretty comfortably (well, as comfortable as one can be with a wet washcloth!).
After the walk, my contractions were more like 4-5 minutes apart, but they were lasting 1 1/2 to 2 minutes long. This meant that the contractions had more time to do their work (thinning out and dilating my cervix). I was still feeling completely normal between contractions, and whenever I would have one, I would usually become a little quieter in order to concentrate on breathing through the contraction. By this time, they were steadily getting stronger. I could feel them start in my lower back and pull/tighten around my abdomen. I would probably describe it as a 3-4 on the pain scale. I continued to snack when I was hungry in order to keep up my energy level. I also drank a ton of water in order to stay hydrated. Since your uterus is contracting, we wanted to make sure that the muscles had plenty of water to help do the work. Plus, emptying your bladder can help move things along, too. Ryan, Julie, and I attempted to watch 27 Dresses, which I hadn't previously seen. I was able to watch a few minutes here and there between contractions, but they started getting even stronger, so we decided to turn it off.
At that point, I started to ask questions about the hospital. Going through the labor wasn't scaring me in the least. I had done so much reading...Ryan and I had communicated for several months about our birth preferences...and I trusted that Ryan and Julie would take good care of me. I was, however, afraid of the hospital. Never having been admitted to the hospital before and not liking medical situations anyway, I was really nervous about what would happen once I got there. Julie took Ryan and I through the process...going to triage to be checked to make sure I really was in labor...getting a hep-lock (IV Port) in case I needed intravenous fluids or medications...answering the nurse's questions, etc. I told Julie that I wanted my contractions to be very regular and more intense before we left. I feared that if things hadn't progressed enough, they would just send me home.
Once those two things were well established, I told Ryan and Julie that I needed an exact time for when we would leave. Those of you who know me understand my NEED for a schedule! :) We chose 3:30 p.m. as the time to leave and did just that! Ryan helped me into the passenger's seat. We reclined the seat, they buckled me in, and off we went. I asked Ryan if he was scared to drive, and he said that he wasn't scared at all. I had contractions about every 3-4 minutes on the way there. It was a bumpy 30 minute drive at times, but again, everything was totally manageable because of the breaks I had between contractions to relax. I was no longer able to talk during them; instead, I had to really focus on my breathing (thank you prenatal yoga!). Then, as soon as they were over, Ryan and I would start talking again. We listened to music to stay relaxed, and Ryan would just turn it down whenever I had a contraction. At this point I was going more and more into my body with each passing contraction.
Julie drove separately to the hospital and parked in the garage. Ryan dropped me off at the main entrance to Methodist once Julie had walked from her car to the front doors. I breathed through my contractions in a lobby area, leaning over a couch with Julie by my side. In the meantime, Ryan parked the car and brought in all of our bags, pillows, cameras, etc. We began our journey to the 3rd floor of Methodist. I continued to have contractions in the hallways and elevator. We would just stop walking each time so that I could breath through them. After they subsided, we were back to walking! In the short walk from the elevator to the triage area, I had two more contractions. This older lady tried to stop Julie from coming into triage with us, saying that the policy was for only one support person to go into triage with us. Julie explained that she was our birth doula and that Dr. Soper had given us the ok to have both her and Ryan in triage. The lady continued to hassle me and was trying to grab my arm to pull me into triage, but I was having a contraction. Needless to say, I almost punched her in the face (hee, hee!). Ryan was raising his voice telling her to leave me alone, and I'm not 100% sure what happened, but in the end, both Ryan and Julie accompanied me into triage. The lady at the front desk in that area said that she had just spoken with Dr. Soper, who had said I could go ahead and go back to my room, skipping triage altogether! Now this had been my hope all along, so it was incredible that it worked out!
When we reached the labor, delivery, and recovery room, I was pretty impressed. We got one of the largest rooms because we wanted to be able to use their labor tubs, which take up a lot of room. Our first nurse, Dawn, asked us a bunch of questions while I worked through my contractions. It still wasn't difficult to talk in between them, but I had to take breaks from the questions whenever a new contraction would come about. Dawn checked my cervix, and I was 99% effaced (paper thin cervix) and 3 cm dilated. I have to admit, I was a little discouraged for about 2 seconds because I thought I was further than 3 cm. However, I knew that you can get through several centimeters in little time and not to worry. The fact that my cervix was 99% effaced, and it had only been maybe 25% effaced the day before, made me feel that much more confident in my body to do the work. I wanted the freedom to move around the room while laboring in order to help me better cope with the contractions. Sitting/lying in a bed while experiencing contractions would have been really difficult! Your body just naturally wants to move, rock, sway, etc. to help stay relaxed and to bring the baby down.
First, I labored standing up, leaning over a hospital tray. Then I got into the bed on my knees, leaning over the back of the bed. At this point, my contractions were getting closer together and more intense. Ryan and Julie were helping me stay focused, and they were putting counter pressure on various places on my back and hips to help me cope with the contractions. I knew I needed to wait until I was at least 5 cm to get into the labor tub or risk the chance of slowing down the progression of my labor. I told Julie and Ryan that I wanted to get into the shower to have some of the water pressure on my back. So Ryan grabbed his swim trunks and joined me in the bathroom! Is my husband the best or what? :) I sat on a chair while Ryan sprayed my back with water. I had warm towels on my legs to help stay warm, and the water pressure felt really good. Julie was taking a break during this time, and I started to get a little scared because I began having lots of double and triple contractions. This happens when your contraction peaks...begins to come down...and then goes up again right away without a break. This happened frequently throughout the rest of my labor. Ryan said that I would say, "Here comes another one," and that he dreaded hearing me say those words because he knew they were intense. I asked the nurse to check me again because I was starting to get a little scared and less focused, which affected my ability to breathe well through the contractions. At that time, I was only 4 cm. I about died! I really wanted to get to 5 cm quickly before I lost my mind. So, I laid down on the floor of the bathroom, and Ryan stayed right by my side, helping with counter pressure and guiding my breathing. After being on the floor for a bit, Ryan helped me to the birth ball, where I sat down and leaned over the bed. I swayed and rocked with my contractions, which again were still getting closer together and more intense. I climbed into the bed and dealt with more contractions on my knees leaning over the back of the bed again. Julie and Ryan continued to help me focus on my breathing, which was mostly just a deep breath in and a deep breath out. I wasn't doing any of the "hee-hee-hoos" or "choo-choos". Prenatal yoga really helped me practice those deep breathing techniques, so I strongly recommend it to my friends and family if they are ever wanting a birth experience like this one. After being in the bed for a bit, I asked the new nurse, Crystal, to check me again. I was still only 4-5 cm. I thought I was going to cry. I knew if I could just get in that water, my body would relax enough for my cervix to open completely. Crystal called Dr. Soper to see if she was ok with me getting in the tub. At this point, I was praying to God that she would say yes...and she did!
They started the water in the tub, and once it was filled, I climbed in. The pressure of water surrounding your body really does take the edge off the pain! It's like the water absorbs some of the pressure and pain so that you don't experience your contractions as much. Now I'm not saying it didn't still hurt...it definitely was a painful situation. However, the warm water really helped me relax between contractions, even though that time was getting shorter and shorter, especially during double and triple contractions. I was having a lot of back pain, so by swaying my body side to side during a contraction and rubbing my back against these ledges in the tub really helped me cope with the intensity. Between contractions, I would just allow my body to go completely limp, and I would begin to float on my back in the water. Ryan said I was in a trance almost. He and Julie could talk to me, but I wouldn't say anything back. I think I had gone completely within my own body and was just so focused on my breathing and getting through each contraction. So my body would rise and fall in the water as I would breathe. Then, I would have a contraction, begin my deep breathing, and sway back and forth. When I asked the nurse to check me again, I was 8-9 centimeters...HOORAY! That meant that I went from 4-5 cm to 8-9 cm in an hour and a half. The end was close. They called Dr. Soper to come into the hospital, which seemed to take forever. I was beginning to have the urge to push, and the contractions were completely at their strongest, closest, and most intense. By the time Dr. Soper arrived, she checked me, and I was 9 cm...one to go! I was starting to lose my mind again. Ryan really helped pull me out of the pain, telling me to look at him and to breathe with him. THIS WAS INVALUABLE!!! I cannot tell you how important that was throughout the entire day but especially at the end when I had so little time to recover from the most intense contractions I would have. Julie encouraged me to try to labor for a bit on my hands and knees in the tub. I was mad and asked her why because I felt safe in the position my body was in at the time. She said that I had been in that position for a long time and that changing my position would maybe help get through that last centimeter. So, I took her advice and flipped over. I don't know how long I was on my hands and knees. I was so focused on breathing, getting through a contraction, resting, and going through that process over and over again. Ryan was again amazing at keeping me focused and breathing correctly. They had me do some short breaths out, kind of like blowing out candles on a cake but blowing out each candle independently. This really helped get through those final intense contractions. I was really having the urge to push, so we called the doctor back in. My cervix was completely dilated on one side, but there was still some cervix left on the other side. So, with my next contraction, Dr. Soper pushed that part of my cervix behind the baby's head. If it stayed in that position through the next contraction, she would let me push...and it did!!! I told the doctor that I didn't think I could get out of the tub. Again, it was my safe place where I had dealt with the most intense contractions I would experience. Dr. Soper got real with me and explained that she really didn't want me to push in the water. She wouldn't be able to see everything as well for one. She gave me some other reasons, but I don't really remember all of them. So, Ryan, Julie, and Dr. Soper helped me out of the tub and into the bed to get ready to push.
I started out laying down on my back. As a contraction would come, I would announce it, pull my knees to my chest, arch my back forward into a C-shape, and push. The key of pushing was to push, take a really quick breath, and immediately push again before the baby slipped back.I usually was able to push 4 times for each contraction. Pushing contractions are different because you have more time to rest during the pushing stage than during the previous part of labor. I pushed on my back for awhile until Dr. Soper suggested that I move to my right side to push. I didn't know it at the time, but the baby's face was facing to the right. By having me push on my side, Dr. Soper was hoping that the baby would turn...and turn he did! The baby's face was now facing up, though it is best for them to be face down. The pushing didn't hurt as far as the baby coming out, but I was having a lot of pain in my abdomen. I don't know if the baby was pushing his knees upward on his way out, but it was really painful! At one point during pushing, I remember thinking for the very first time, "What if I can't do this?" Visions of a vacuum extraction, episiotomy, and C-section were starting to appear in my mind, and that was all the motivation I needed to really push that baby out! I started to have another contraction and told Dr. Soper. She said something like, "You don't need me for this. You are doing just fine, so just push whenever you feel the urge." I loved not being forced to push for a particular amount of time, and I enjoyed even more that I was listening to the cues from my own body to push rather than a doctor telling me that I was having a contraction and should push. Ryan and I wanted to donate the baby's umbilical cord blood to help a family in need of stem cells or to further stem cell research. So, Dr. Soper and Crystal began to get everything ready for the collection. It was awesome! During one of the rest periods, Ryan told me to look at him, and he said, "Amy, I can see our baby! You can do this." Again, I had a surge of energy and adrenalin. They got a mirror for me to see the baby's head coming out. I was in awe!!! Ryan was at my left side the whole time, and Julie was at my right side. Crystal and Dr. Soper were both right in front of me. Finally, Dr. Soper announced, "I have 1/3 of a head, and with this next contraction, we'll have a baby. I got SOOO excited/determined and pushed with all of my might. Ryan later told me that my face wasn't red...it was purple! So, with my next contraction, I pushed with every ounce of energy and strength that I had. After the fourth time of pushing, I looked in the mirror and saw the baby being born. It was absolutely incredible! Words really can't describe how I felt or what I saw. All I can say is that it was breathtaking. Noah Ryan Abell was born at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, 2008 weighing 7 lbs., 4 oz. and was 19 1/2 inches long.
Dr. Soper put the baby on my stomach but didn't announce the sex. The baby was lying in my arms with its bottom in my hand. I said, "Oh my gosh, it's a boy! I can feel his little balls!" I know it wasn't my most eloquent moment, but that was my reaction! I just looked at Ryan with tears in my eyes and in amazement. He was looking right back at me with the same expression. I just held onto the baby for a good ten minutes before they took him for measuring and other hospital procedures. I was so thankful for those moments! Ryan cut the cord, the doctor collected the stem cells, and Ryan then followed Crystal back to take pictures and to watch her do various procedures with the baby. In the meantime, I was given a pill to help the placenta detach. It just didn't want to budge, and I made the joke that it wanted me to have gestational diabetes forever!! Dr. Soper began pushing really hard on my abdomen to try to push the placenta out. That was excrutiating!!! I was gripping her arm and was trying to pry it off my belly. She said, "Amy, please let me do this." But seriously, it is a gut reaction to fight someone off when they are hurting you, and this really hurt! Finally, my placenta released, and it was over. I didn't tear or have an episiotomy...BOOYAH! The baby was very healthy, and I was doing fine!
Ryan went down to the waiting area to start bringing up the grandparents two at a time. Ryan didn't want to tell them the sex of the baby until they came to the room to visit us. My mom and her husband came in first, visiting for a bit and holding little baby Noah. Then, my dad and Danette came in to see us and to meet Noah, too. Ryan's parents then came in and were excited to meet their fourth grandchild. Afterwards, all of the grandparents were invited back in together to visit with us and to celebrate this new life! By this time it was past 1 a.m. I think, and everyone was really tired. I felt great and was having a really easy recovery from the labor and delivery. Ryan helped Crystal give Noah his first bath, and I watched from my bed, not really wanting to stand a whole lot at that point! :) Ryan was so sweet with the baby and did a great job with the bath. He brought Noah over to me afterwards, and we just held onto him, loving every second of it. While waiting to be transferred to our postpartum room, Ryan fell asleep, and I just stared in awe at Noah. That was my son, who had been hiccuping and stretching and kicking me for the past several months...who had grown from microscopic size to this beautiful little man in 9 months. It is something I will never forget!!!