Two Frogs
Thomas Nelson Gunderloy
Born June 21, 2004 11:53AM
8 lb. 15 oz.
21 inches
The most frustrating thing about childbirth is not knowing when it's going to happen. Inevitably, the last few weeks are marked by false starts, false hopes, and (at least for me) false labor. We went to the hospital on June 15th, certain I was in labor. We stayed there over seventeen hours, with the kids off at a friend's house, and the contractions finally petered out to almost nothing. I had progressed only a tiny bit; when I arrived, I was at 50% effaced and 1cm, and by the time I left I was at 60% effaced and 3cm. Some progress, true, but not enough to make it worthwhile to stay. Our doctor left all options open to us - we could augment with Pitocin, or we could remain in the hospital to see if labor picked back up, or we could go home. We opted for the latter (and in hindsight, it was SO the right decision).

I spent the next week having increasingly strong, irregular contractions that I mostly ignored. We had another OB appointment scheduled for Wednesday the 23rd and were facing the possibility that we would have to induce. My blood pressure and the baby's heart rate were fine, but we were getting dangerously close to 42 weeks gestation when most doctors will insist on induction. Lucky for us, it didn't come to that. I had contractions all night on Father's Day (June 20th) and we joked about a baby's being Mike's Father's Day present. They never got regular, however, so I went to sleep that night and rested. I woke up at 3:30AM on the 21st for one of my regular potty runs, and noticed a bit of bloody show. This was exciting news, indeed! I had a bit of bloody show after the previous week's hospital visit (and its attendant half-dozen or so cervical exams), but that blood had eventually subsided and I'd had two days of "no-show". I came back to bed and told Mike we had bloody show, which he declared was "good news." I agreed. We tried to rest a bit then, but between excitement and hard contractions, I decided I should get out of bed. At that point, contractions were 5-6 minutes apart. I told Mike I was going to have breakfast while I could. He also got out of bed and went around to do his last-minute run-to-the-hospital chores "just in case."

It's a good thing he did, because by the time he came in the contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart, and I was having more bloody show. I had already called the hospital to let them know I was coming in, and called a babysitter (Stephanie) to have her meet us at the hospital. This arrangement worked out much better for us: Stephanie was able to entertain and keep an eye on the kids in the surgical waiting room while we labored in the OB unit, and Mike was able to make periodic visits to them to see that they were ok. It was a quick $100 for her, and a load of worry off our minds, so I think everyone ended up happy. I told Mike I had made the calls and he got the kids up to get them dressed and into the truck, while I dressed myself and grabbed my purse.

When we got to the hospital at about 5:30AM, I was still at about 3cm, but was 75% effaced and "stretchy and soft." Mike got the kids settled in with Stephanie when she got there shortly after we did, then checked on them every hour or so. Our nurse was Lynette, whom we'd met the week before. She let us know she was due to go off the OB floor at 6AM, but that she'd still be around pulling a shift on the regular nursing floor. It turns out it was a good thing she stuck around, because another mom was there, being induced. At 6, Martha showed up and took over the OB floor. We had met her first when I gave birth to Kayla two years ago, and had seen her again the week before.

The next few hours were just the usual for an unmedicated labor - contractions that got increasingly long and strong, a baby that moved ever closer to the door, and a cervix that (very) gradually dilated. I knew that labor would progress much faster if my membranes were ruptured, but the baby was still very "blottable" (meaning his head moved away from the cervix if they touched it), so the doctors wouldn't rupture; they didn't want to risk a prolapsed cord that would result in an immediate emergency c-section with full anesthesia. I was just as happy to wait. Mike and I both had a little snack during this period, but for the most part we just watched TV (MTV and CMT, mostly, though there was an episode of Mama's Family in there, too) and I "breathed away" the contractions. At about 10:45, Martha did another cervical check. We were at 5cm, 90% effaced, and the baby was a little more engaged. She decided to let the doctor have a check and see if he thought it was safe to rupture. She had been trying all morning to find "our" doctor, but apparently he was still out of town so we were attended by Dr. Mellor instead. I wasn't too disappointed; we'd seen Dr. Mellor several times before for other things, and he's delivered tons of babies. He has 8 of his own, and even delivered one of those!

At 10:50, Dr. Mellor came in with a third-year med student, Jim, who was on his first day of this rotation. Dr. Mellor did a cervical and said, "I think we can do this," and decided to rupture. He did so, and I told them when I could feel the fluid coming out. My question was, "Is it clear?" He said, "No, there's a little meconium, but it's not too much." Then I had a contraction and a whole lot of fluid came out. It was way more than just a little green, and I started to worry a bit. Then I decided to just resign myself to Thomas' being suctioned as soon as he was born, and not to worry. Nothing I could do about it, anyway. I confirmed with the doc that I would try my best not to push after the head was out, but that last time I hadn't been very successful. He said it wasn't a problem, and then he instructed Jim on how to place a scalp electrode on Thomas to monitor his heart rate. We agreed to this before my water was broken; he had been moving so much and was so low, it was virtually impossible to get a reliable "read" on him. Thankfully, he bore the entire labor like a champ, and never had any trouble.

Once the electrode was in, I was checked again. 7cm, fully effaced. Things went very quickly from then on. Contractions were coming harder, lasting longer, and were more frequent. With every one of them, I felt more and more fluid being squeezed out. I swear, I had enough amniotic fluid to fill a swimming pool! Martha and Lynette were both in and out of the room from then on, since they had ruptured the other mom at about the same time and Lynette got pulled back into OB duty. I teased her, "You just thought you were done with OB for the day." She laughed. Then she told me she couldn't believe how well I was bearing labor at this point, since I was laughing and joking between contractions, and yet was in transition (the phase of labor when a woman is supposedly at her most out-of-control). I was just managing pain by closing my eyes during contractions, grabbing the top of the bed with both hands, breathing as deeply as I could, and sort of moving my head from side to side when I started to slip into panting; somehow the head-flopping was like a reset function for me, and I'd go back into deep breathing.

As the contractions got worse, I started visualizing a doe in labor in a little shaded spot on our land. I don't know where this idea came from, since I'd never thought of it before or read about it anywhere, but it was strangely comforting. I pictured how calm she was as the fawn moved through her body, and tried to emulate it. I know, it sounds hippy-dippy, but it worked. The harder the contractions came, the more closely I focused on that doe, sometimes alternating her with a laboring cow. The pain gradually got worse and worse, and then I could feel the urge to push. I told the nurse I needed to push, and she checked me for dilation. I was on my side. She told me I was at 8, and not to push yet. A couple of contractions later, I said again that I needed to push. They checked again, and this time I was at 9. Two more contractions, and I again said I needed to push. They said I was at 10 with a lip, and that I shouldn't push yet. Martha went to go call the doc (I think her words were "Get here now" before she hung up on him). Lynette told me to try a little push with the next contraction, to see if that moved the lip out of the way. I don't know if it did or not, because after I had a little push and a rest, it was REALLY time to push. Mike says I was crowning by the time the doctors got there, but I wasn't really sure about it; I was looking in the mirror, but couldn't make much out. I do know that, quiet as I had been during most of labor, pushing was something else entirely.

I roared as loud as I could for about 3-4 seconds, and could feel my uterus bearing down, and the head coming out. It burned like a sonofabitch, but the scream helped. Oddly, Martha actually told me to "shh" but I think that was just a soothing "shh" like you tell a child, not a "Be quiet!" kind of shh. Next contraction, another long scream, but I got his head almost the entire way out. Martha was telling me to put my chin to my chest and push again. I told her "No" and she said ok. I pushed again, and his head was out. I started panting, trying hard not to push, so they could suction him. I think Mike thought I was hyperventilating, but I was doing it on purpose. Then I heard Dr. Mellor tell me to push the shoulders out, but there wasn't a contraction yet. Two seconds later, there was a contraction. Five seconds after that, there was a baby! Jim was actually the one who caught, but Dr. Mellor was right next to him, coaching him on what to do the entire time (including to check for a cord around the neck while I was panting). Mike cut the cord, and everyone but Martha and me moved over to the baby warmer to tend to Thomas. They suctioned him and got him crying, then brought him back to me while Jim and Dr. Mellor waited for me to deliver the placenta so they could start the suturing. Thomas wasn't ready to nurse yet, so I handed him back so they could finish up weighing, measuring, etc.

The placenta was delivered with no trouble, except for a little panic on my part when I heard Dr. Mellor explain to Jim that, "A prolapsed cord is the scariest thing that can happen, because the survival rate is almost zero," but I think that was just explanatory of why we'd waited to rupture, and not relative to anything that had happened with us. The stitches were another thing entirely. I agreed to let Jim suture, but since he was so green and required so much instruction from the doctor, and because there were two sets of hands instead of one, and because I'd torn instead of had an episiotomy (no time), it seemed to take forever to finish it up. But finally, finish they did, and they let me rest for a bit before they let me walk into the recovery room across the hall. We then spent the rest of the day letting our little family bond.
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Frog photograph in the header of this site taken by 8UGS