My son was born at 6:10 PM on Sunday evening. I had been in labor for just around 8 hours, and had only been on the 1-2 ml/hr Pitocin drip for the first 5 hours. Beyond that (and the attendant continuous fetal monitoring), the only intervention that was used was the vacuum extractor.
Constantine was placed on my chest immediately, snuggled up under my hospital gown skin-to-skin with a warm blanket placed over us, and he stopped crying almost instantly. He was very awake and alert. They waited for the cord to stop pulsing, then clamped it and asked my husband if he would like to cut it. My husband is rather squeamish about blood, so he kind of surprised me when he said yes and did the cutting. He came around to the side of my bed to look down on the two of us, and I noticed that he had tears in his eyes. As for Costa, I thought he looked like a little cherub, so chubby and with golden blonde hair. (The blonde hair really, really surprised me. My husband and all of his siblings have dark brown or black hair, and my natural hair color is medium golden brown. But all of my siblings were blonde as babies, so Costa seems to have gotten those genes or something.)
I guess it’s worth saying that I pretty much filled the bed with pee and poop during transition—and totally didn’t care! I’m not embarrassed by stuff like that, and if people who work in L&D are annoyed by it, they’ve clearly chosen the wrong career path.
Costa (who got a 9 on both Apgar assessments) was able to start breastfeeding about 10-15 minutes after he was born. 30-45 minutes after he was born, I let them take him off my chest for just a few minutes so that they could weigh him and do his other exams. I was expecting a big baby, but was still surprised by the announcement that he was 9 lbs. 5 oz., 22.5 in. long. He cried the whole time he was away from me, then calmed again as soon as he was returned to me, and started feeding on the other breast. About an hour after he was born, I finally had him wrapped up and gave dad a turn at holding him.
As far as the afterbirth goes, I did not even notice the placenta come out. I asked them if I had torn, and they said, “Yes, but it isn’t that bad, we’ll tell you about it in a second.” They had to numb me up and repair it, which took a while, then finally reported to me that I had a 2nd degree “skid mark.” It was long enough to be 2nd degree, but was not deep at all. I later found out that Costa was direct occiput posterior, which they hadn’t realized until he was out, and which probably explains why my labor was not starting on its own. Given those circumstances along with his size, I’m not too disappointed that we needed the vacuum to remove him, or that I tore. It’s been almost a week since delivery as I write this, and thus far it hasn’t been anywhere near as painful as the episiotomy that I had with my daughter 2 years ago.
Final thoughts on miscellaneous aspects of the birth…
The birth plan ~ Birth plans are often criticized as useless because births seldom go according to “plan.” Mine certainly did not go according to plan, as I had to be induced and continuously monitored, and we wound up using the vacuum extractor to remove my son. However, everything else about my birth plan was followed as closely as possible. The second nurse I had (who was just wonderful—wish I could write more about that) and the baby nurse both read and followed my birth plan carefully, and the second nurse thanked me for writing it.
Doula ~ I just can’t say enough about how hiring a doula was the right move. It felt great to have someone who was almost always in the room with us, giving us guidance on how our labor was going, reassuring me, praising me, encouraging me, and even just reminding me to drink water and put chap stick on my lips. It was also great just to have someone who would run and get whatever it is in the room that I needed.
My medical team ~ I’m happy with my hot doctor and his attending. I did have to turn down some interventions I did not want, but overall I think they tried really hard to respect our wishes and make the birth as natural as it could be given the circumstances.
On going without pain meds ~ So freakin’ AWESOME. Yes, the pain was intense. Yes, I screamed and cried and yelled and prayed and didn’t care who heard me. But I did it, and once I had beaten it all, the feeling was just amazing. I was an active part of my son’s birth the entire time and didn’t just have to lay there and let them remove him like I did with my daughter. Plus, the reward was that the nurses could not stop commenting on how alert my son was. They said that almost everyone takes the epidural these days, they rarely see births without pain medication, so most babies come out a little lethargic. Not my son though. When he was not breastfeeding or sleeping, he was awake and looking around at the world. I also didn’t have to wait for pain meds to flush out of my system. I was walking around and feeling great that same day.
On delivering in a hospital ~ I think this was the right move for me. I’ve never been persuaded by the argument that low-risk home birth is just as safe as hospital birth. That isn’t meant to insult people who have home births; I think that option should exist, I’ll just never do it myself. A birthing center is something I seriously would have considered had it been available, but now that I’ve had two pregnancies that teetered towards pre-eclampsia at the very end, I think I will just stick to a hospital delivery if I ever have a third child. Birthing in the hospital did mean having to turn down interventions that I did not want, but with the right care team, it can be done.
In the end, I feel fantastic about how this birth went. I don’t look back on it with regret and dread like I do my daughter’s birth. It was a better birth in almost every way imaginable, and now I have a healthy son* to show for it.
* My son might actually have an issue with his skull called craniosynostosis. His fontanelles are there, but they’re tiny, so the next step is an ultrasound on his skull to learn more. All I really know so far is that, if he has it, it will probably mean some major skull surgery, but it’s treatable. None of that would have been caused by the pregnancy or birth though, and if he has it, it is not effecting him for right now, so I am trying not to worry about it until we know more. Having seen so many other women lose their babies over the course of the past 9 months, for now, I’m just so grateful to have him at all.