Two Frogs
Kayla Reese Gunderloy
Born July 29, 2006 12:29PM
8 lb. 7 oz.
21.5 inches
When does labor start? If it's from the first contraction, I've been in labor for over two months. I think usually people consider it to be labor when your contractions become regular and strong. What people neglect to tell you is that labor often starts, then stops, then starts, then stops, then.. well, you get the idea. That seems to be how it is with me.

We went to the hospital on July 20th, certain we were in labor. Turns out we were wrong. On July 28th, the contractions started again. This time it looked more like a real labor pattern: regular contractions every 10 minutes, increasing incrementally in intensity and frequency until they were about 6-7 minutes apart. We went outside to walk around, and they got dramatically stronger and closer together. So we headed to the hospital again. I got there and got checked. I was still at the same 2cm dilation and 80% effacement from the previous week. They put me on the fetal monitor to confirm that I was having regular labor, then sent me to walk the halls, use the rocking chair, or do whatever else felt right.

Contraction frequency again stretched out, finally got completely irregular and as far apart as 12 minutes. They did another cervical exam and found I hadn't changed at all. I can't really tell you how disappointing and embarassing that was. I cried and silently castigated myself the entire way home. I felt like a failure, completely out of touch with my own body, not even able to distinguish "real" labor from "false."

We got home and went to bed about 1AM. I woke up every hour, on the hour, with a strong contraction and the need to pee. I ignored the former, indulged the latter, and went back to bed every time. About 7:45 I woke up with another contraction. I sat there and coached myself through it, then rested for a few minutes. I got up to go pee again, and felt a gush of water. Yep, my membranes ruptured. I opened the door and called to Mike. I told him what happened, then showed him. He said there was a lot of bloody show, and we confirmed that it didn't smell like urine. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom and we started timing contractions. We called the hospital and told them what happened. They said we could come in or wait for a callback from our doctor. Considering what had happened the night before, I decided to wait for a callback. It didn't take long. After I told Dr. Parsons that my water had broken and contractions were every 3 minutes, he said, "Get in here."

Contractions stayed steady and hard at every 3 minutes, even during the drive in. They got harder, but I could still talk through some of them and between all of them. Mike and I joked and talked all the way in. He dropped me at the ER door (less walking) and went to park. I started walking back to the OB ward, but a nurse saw me and offered a wheelchair. I accepted. The one she brought had a broken foot pedal, so I just propped both feet on the other one. I was past caring about something so insignificant.

The birthing suite
I got settled in and changed, and when they first checked me I was at 4.5 cm. That was a surprisingly large change from the night before, and I finally allowed myself again to think, "This is it!" Contractions continued at every 2.5-3 minutes, hard and regular. Eventually (I think at about 10AM), I asked to take the monitoring equipment off and sit in the rocking chair; Tammy (the most excellent OB nurse ever) said, "Sure." I sat and rocked, and talked to Mike. I had already decided I wanted a drug-free delivery, so I just practiced deep breathing during the contractions. Mike coached in the beginning, but after awhile I just wanted it to be quiet so I could focus on relaxing my muscles. He was great; he went right along with whatever I wanted. Between contractions, he talked to me, telling me stories about when he used to work for Kelly Girl.

I spent a little over an hour in the rocker, then decided to move back to the bed. I had this one really massive contraction as I was climbing back in the bed, and I could feel the control trying to get away from me. I yelped and hollered instead of just focusing and breathing. After it was over, I said, "What do you want to bet I'm at 7?" Tammy checked me, and that's exactly where I was. Transition had officially begun. I started getting even more inward-focused. I remembered reading someone else's birth story, and she menioned that she thought of flowers opening as a way to try to help her body dilate. I thought of tulips opening in the morning (we grow tulips in the front garden of our house). As labor got more intense, my thoughts got more random. I was picturing mother beavers preening their newborn kits, for example. Tammy kept suggesting the "hee-hee-hee-whooooo" breathing pattern to me, but I was doing fine with deep breathing and decided to stick with it as long as I could. I made it to 8.5 cm that way.

Even though my water had broken at home, there was still a bubble of fluid in front of the baby's head. I held off on letting them rupture it, hoping it would break on its own. By the time I was at 8.5, I wanted it out of the way so I could finish dilating and effacing (there was an anterior lip remaining) so that I could push. The doctor ruptured that bubble at about noon, and I felt the gush of water. Not long after that I felt the urge to push, and let the world know it. They checked me again, and said I was fully dilated, but still had the cervical lip. Dr. Parsons explained that I should hold off on pushing for a few contractions (SIDENOTE: Can I just say how long a period of time 'a few contractions' sounds to a woman ready to push??) so that I wouldn't cause the cervix to swell or tear. I groaned and turned on my side, holding on to the bedrails for support. From 7 cm on I had taken to burying my head beneath a pillow for each contraction.

I made it through 2 contractions without pushing, even though the urge was almost overwhelming. I felt another contraction coming on and announced that I was going to push. Dr. Parsons just looked at me kind of forlornly and said, "I can't stop you." I couldn't stop me, either. The contraction built and my body reflexively started bearing down. In one push, I felt her head move at least halfway down my birth canal. I said, "It's her head! It's her head coming! Someone better catch her!" and I rolled myself back onto my back. I pushed again and started watching the overhead mirror. In that push, I saw her crown. Crowning didn't hurt NEARLY as bad as those two pre-pushing contractions, I might add. I knew I was going to tear, and the doctor said he thought he should do an episiotomy. I said, "Fine," and he snipped it. Mike asked if I wanted to touch her head. I said I didn't want to touch anything, but then changed my mind and touched. I was again surprised at how soft it was.

Dr. Parsons said it was very important for me not to push after I got the head out, so that they could suction her. When he broke the bubble of amniotic fluid, there had been some meconium in it and he wanted to make sure to suction her before she could aspirate any of it. I said I'd try. I got her head fully out in one more push, and panted, trying my best not to push. Again, though, my body took over and it pushed the rest of her out. She was born at 12:29PM. Total pushing time was about five minutes.

Clinging to Mommy's finger
I looked down and watched them taking care of her. I was amazed at how much meconium they got out of her stomach (at least, it looked like a lot to me). After she came out, there was this huge gush of the rest of the fluid, and it was all green and brown. It soaked the poor doctor's pants (he joked about it later; good thing he'd had time to change into scrubs!), and had me very, very worried for her health. Everybody assured me that she was fine, though. They clamped the cord, Mike cut it, and they put her on my abdomen. I helped rub her poor little body. She cried very soon after birth, and was very lusty and healthy-looking, despite some meconium staining. They rubbed her body for awhile on my belly, then took her to the warmer for routine newborn care, plus more suctioning. Mike went with her, and the doctor started stitching up my episiotomy. He reported that I hadn't damaged my cervix by the pushing (whew!).

She weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces, and was 21.5 inches long. Her head circumference was 34cm, and her Apgar scores were 8 and 9. Her labor and delivery were completely drug-free. She began nursing as soon as they gave her back to me, and it seems she hasn't stopped since. The whole family is doing well, if a bit tired.
Both of my babies An unhappy baby, post-partum Grandma and Kayla Dr. Parsons with Kayla
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