My labor with Ribgy likely started weeks before she was actually born. At my weekly appointments with Dr. Chauhan, my cervix was starting to show some changes. At the last appointment on September 10, I was 2-3 centimeters dilated, 80-90% effaced, and baby was at -1 station. I spent that week on “bed rest” because my amniotic fluid was a little low, but I really tried all I could think of to start labor. I was ready to meet this baby!
I had another ultrasound on Thursday, September 13. My fluid was still low (around a 5, same as Monday), and the tech (Tracy) said, “It wouldn’t be bad if you had that baby this weekend.” I was given instructions to continue with bed rest and return for another ultrasound on Monday, September 17. (By the way, Justin had crazy heart palpitations on the morning of September 13, and I actually had to take him to the ER on my way to the appointment. He was totally fine, and the doc gave him a prescription for some anxiety pills. I think the waiting daddy was getting a little nervous!)
Caroline, RJ, and Karen came to town on Friday night (September 14). We went out to eat, and then we all walked down the street with Rory to try to get things moving. No dice.
Saturday morning, Justin and RJ put some of the finishing touches on the nursery. We went to lunch, and then went to Kroger to buy burgers for a get-together that night with some friends. As we walked around Kroger, I had a couple of contractions and was generally uncomfortable, but no real noticeable change occurred. I would characterize my feelings most of the day Saturday as “uncomfortable.”
Justin, Caroline, and I went to our friends' house that evening. Caroline swam and played on the swing set with the other children, the men drank beers and cooked the meat, and the women chatted (mainly about kids and childbirth, given my condition). I held a little baby who was about 10 weeks old at the time. (I had heard that being around infants can give you a little boost of oxytocin, and I was hoping this might be the case.) We had a great time and then headed home.
Karen and RJ had gone to downtown Memphis while we were at the party, and they were at the house when we arrived back home. Austin and his friend were also there. They were planning to order pizza, and Caroline was asking to watch a movie. I just felt “ick,” and wanted to rest. I ate an ice cream Drumstick and then went to rest in our bedroom. I slept for an hour or so, and when Justin came to bed at 10:00, I told him that I was pretty sure that I had had a few contractions. They weren’t frequent or intense, so we both agreed that there was no reason to get worked up yet. He went to bed, and I watched Saturday Night Live for a while. I called our doula, Penny, around 11:30 and told her the situation. She suggested that I take some Tylenol PM or Tylenol and Benadryl and try to get some sleep. She said to call back with any questions or changes. I took some Benadryl and Tylenol and tried to sleep.
I had that kind of “in between” sleep for an hour or so. The kind of sleep where you might be in a very shallow sleep, but your mind is still racing. Around 1:00 or so, I went out to try to sleep on the couch in the living room. The contractions were definitely different from ones I had been feeling in the weeks leading up to this. They started as a kind of cramp, built in intensity (like someone was turning up the volume), then tapered off. I was keeping track of the time between contractions, and they were getting closer together. They were uncomfortable and somewhat painful, but I was able to breathe through them. I felt comforted by the peak of the contractions because I knew that the contraction would ease off after that point.
Our cat kept me company during these contractions. He sat on my lap as I lay on the couch, and I petted him as I breathed through the contractions. At around 3:00 am, my contractions were 6-8 minutes apart. I woke Justin and told him the situation. We agreed that it would likely be time to head to the hospital pretty soon, so he got up and we both took showers. Since my parents live so far away, I called them around 3:45 am to tell them that it seemed to be “go time!” Dad got ready to leave Summerville for Southaven, and Mom left Atlanta (where she’d been visiting Granny Dot) to head this way. Justin and I sat up as my contractions continued and became more frequent. Around 5:00 am, I called the doctor’s office to ask to speak to the doctor on call. Dr. Sullivant called me back shortly after, and he was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. He said that for a first pregnancy, contractions being 5 minutes apart may or may not mean baby is coming soon. He told me I could go to the hospital or not, and when I decided to go to the hospital, I could just go (no need to call him back). This was disappointing. I think that disappointment led to the next step in my labor process: a complete stop in contractions.
I called Penny and told her the latest development. She was very supportive and suggested getting more sleep since the contractions had stopped. I also called my parents to tell them to keep driving west but not to go to the hospital just yet. Justin and I went to sleep for a few hours.
When we woke up, Karen and Caroline were in the kitchen playing a game and eating doughnuts that they had picked up. Again, I felt uncomfortable and cranky. I ate a doughnut, and rested on the couch. When I got up at one point, I groaned and Caroline said, “Do you need to take your baby out?” Yes, sweet girl, I sure do!
I called Amy to talk to her about my experiences the night before, and I walked up and down the street again. My mom arrived around 11:00, and Karen, RJ, and Caroline were preparing to leave at the same time. My contractions also started to pick back up at this time. I ate some cheese toast and chatted with my mom. It was so awesome to see her! She brought a present from a co-worker and Rigby’s baby book from Granny Dot. Justin needed to go to the plant to submit payroll since it looked like he might be missing work on Monday. Mom and I stayed home and sat in the nursery. I rocked in the nursing chair, and when I had a contraction, I’d breathe and sometimes let out a low moan. I decided that two rules I wanted to have during labor were minimal talking during contractions and no laughing/jokes during contractions.
Justin returned home and suggested that I eat some soup. I had a few bites and a little more cheese toast. I heard my dad pull into the driveway, and right about that time, I knew I was going to lose my soup. I ran to the bathroom and was sick, just as my dad was coming in the house. After I cleaned up, I came out to say hello to my dad. I could tell from the look on his face that I looked rough. Mom informed Dad and Justin of my labor rules, and I was glad that she did. It was still tough for my dad not to joke, but he tried his best.
My contractions progressed and became closer together and more intense as the afternoon went on. Around 4:00, it felt like it was time to go to the hospital. I called Penny and asked her to meet us there. We loaded up the cars and set out for Methodist Germantown. Justin and I rode together, and I was very aware of the fact that this was the last time we’d ride in the car as “just us two.” (I knew we’d ride together without the baby in the future, but she’d still be “with” us in the sense that she would be waiting for us somewhere.)
We arrived at the hospital at the same time as Penny. I checked in and was taken to a room in Labor and Delivery. It was quiet that evening, as only one or two other mothers were on the unit. The nurse went over my birth plan with me, and she put in my hep lock (instead of an IV). I was allowed to labor in the clothes I wore from home, just as I’d requested. Penny spoke with the nurses on duty (they were about to be ending their shifts at 7:00), and one of the nurses showed her how to make the cute “bow” baby hats for baby girls. We set this baby hat aside for the little girl who would be joining us soon!
I was 4 cm dilated and 80-90% effaced. Since my water hadn’t broken yet, Penny suggested that we walk. And walk we did! We walked laps around L & D. At first, I’d need to stop about once a lap to have a contraction. I’d wrap my arms around Justin’s neck, put my forehead on his chest, and sway/slow dance through the contraction. At various times, Penny, Justin, and my mom and dad walked with us. Once an hour, the nurse hooked me up to the monitor to check my progress. During these checks, I ate popsicles and breathed through the contractions in the bed. Karen and RJ drove back up from dropping Caroline off, and they went to dinner with my parents. They brought dinner back for Justin, and he went to eat it in the lobby (so the laboring woman who couldn’t eat solids wouldn’t have to watch him!) while my parents stayed with me. When Justin returned, we resumed our walks around L & D. After the second contraction or so, I asked Justin if he’d eaten something with lettuce on it. He said that his burger had had lettuce, and I told him that I could smell the lettuce on his shirt. Penny couldn’t believe that I could smell lettuce!
After hours of walking, my water still hadn’t broken. We discussed having the doctor break my water, and I told Penny that I was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to handle harder contractions after they broke my water. We ended up having the doctor break my water around 10:00 or so, and the contractions really intensified then! At some point (I don’t remember if it was before or after the water breaking), my mom came back to the room from the lobby. It was really perfect timing because right as she got there, I became nauseous. I knew that Justin would have a hard time watching me throw up (and might start vomiting himself), so it was nice to have my mom and Penny there with the evening nurse (who was calm, quiet, and awesome) while I went through my nausea. At one point, I had to go to the bathroom, and they helped me waddle in there. I felt like I couldn’t even remember how to pee, so Penny turned on the faucet to help stimulate the urge.
As I labored through these much more intense contractions, we tried different labor positions. I remember leaning over the upright back of the bed going through a contraction and asking for medicine. The nurse said they would have to check my progress, and if I was more than 8 cm, I couldn’t get an epidural. While we were waiting (for what? I don’t even remember), I again asked for medicine. By the time they checked me, I was 8-9 cm, so it was too late for an epidural. I was actually pretty happy about this because I wanted a natural birth. That time during transition was just SO hard, and I didn’t know if I could go on.
Penny suggested I squeeze combs in my hands during contractions (one of her many Jedi doula tips), and that was amazing. From that last time of checking me until the baby was born, I felt like I had my eyes closed the entire time. Penny would talk me through contractions: “Relax your forehead,” “Stay on top of this one.” When I felt out of control, she helped me feel in control again.
I think I started pushing around 12:00 or 12:30. At first, I had no idea what I was doing. The nurse and Penny would tell me that I had done a good job pushing through a certain contraction, I didn’t know what I had done that was particularly good. I kept my eyes closed, and just remember feeling SO hot! Between contractions, Penny fanned me and my mom fed me ice chips. Penny and the nurse kept telling me to breathe through my nose and breathe for my baby between contractions, which I knew meant something was up. As it turns out, baby’s heart rate was dipping during contractions, and they wanted to make sure she was getting oxygen. I was a little scared, but I was doing all they were telling me to do. Through this whole process, I feel like my eyes were closed. Early in the pushing, the nurse said they were going to bring in the “delivery table.” I thought, “If you think I’m getting off this bed and getting onto some table, you’ve got another thing coming!” Turns out, they just meant the table with all the tools for the delivery.
As the baby began to crown, Penny asked me if I wanted the mirror rolled over so I could watch. I VERY quickly replied, “NO!” and kept me eyes closed and my breathing focused as I continued to push. At 2:30, I gave one more push, and Dr. Pickens caught sweet Rigby Anne Reed. He quickly removed the cord from around her neck (the reason for her decelerating heart rate), clamped it, and handed her to me. She was crying, and I was in awe! Oh my goodness! Here’s a baby! MY baby! She’s right here in my arms! What just happened! How is this possible?! We have a BABY?! It was amazing, incredible, and unbelievable. All the medical staff let me hold her for what felt like 15 minutes. The room was quiet and calm, save for Rigby’s cries. It was the birth experience I hoped and prayed for, and I felt so blessed to have a happy, beautiful baby girl.