Ramona Jean: Our Birth Story
July 31, 2015
Every time that I've sat down to write Ramona's birth story, I've only managed to jot down a few sentences before her sweet little waking coos have called to me, or I've realized I should be showering/working out/eating while I have a window of opportunity, or I've decided it is nearly impossible to put the whole experience into words and spent the whole time social-media-ing.
But it's been 12 weeks now. And, as I stare in disbelief at that number, it feels like I shouldn't go another day without sharing.
In the months leading up to Ramona's birth, people would occasionally ask me what my birth plan was. Overwhelmed with endless morning sickness and nausea, I simply said that the plan was to have a baby. Because I couldn't think that far ahead. Because each day I would focus on simply getting through that day. Because, full disclosure, I probably thought about how wonderful it would be to eat freely again more than I thought about delivering a baby.
I had always pictured myself with a midwife, but when my doctor referred me to an old school English male OBGYN, I felt comfortable with that route as well. He was so thorough during my entire pregnancy - so careful about monitoring my placenta position (possible placenta previa), the size of my babe, and keeping my hereditary blood disorder in mind - that in the last couple months I was going for weekly ultrasounds. It was such a comfort to see our baby so often before we could meet her, to see how she grew from week to week, and to see (though I could feel it constantly) how wiggly and busy she was even then (at my second ultrasound she was bouncing off either side of my uterus like a ping pong ball!).
As the time came closer to my due date, I was convinced that our baby would be late. I had heard about that feeling of urgency so many pregnant mums experienced in the last few weeks - mainly from the physical discomfort - to just get that baby out of there! But I was feeling more comfortable than I had in the first two trimesters, and it didn't feel like my body was in any rush either. However, on my due date, my doctor scheduled an induction date, due to the expected size (underweight) of our baby. It was strange to suddenly know the day we would meet our child.
On May 6, the night before my induction date, around 9:30 pm, my water broke as I was getting into the shower. At first I thought that I had just lost control of my bladder, seeing as we hadn't exactly been on the best of terms during the past few months. I called the hospital, and was told to come in with the expectation I may be sent back home. Before I left, I put a light panty liner in my underwear to help with the tiny remaining flow of fluid. Oh, silly me. By the time I was in the waiting room, I was soaked all the way down to my ankles.
Eventually a nurse came in and gave me a robe, told me to undress and lie down while I waited. Patricio and I could faintly hear a delivery happening down the hall, the first cries of a newborn, and the excitement from the new parents "It's a girl!"
And it was then, lying on an inspection table, listening to another parent's joy, waiting for someone to inspect my lady business, that it hit me that I was going to have a baby. Soon. Maybe not now, but very, very soon. Was I even fit to be a mother? Had I really thought this through? What were we thinking? And the baby was going to have to come out of me, and it was going to hurt! Probably a lot! This baby would just have to stay in there until I was ready, in like another fifty years.
And then a doctor finally came in to see me. I wasn't experiencing any contractions, and I was only 2 cm dilated. I would be induced in only seven hours from then anyway, so I was sent home for the night (with the most mammoth absorbent sanitary pad to show for it).
I barely slept. Partially out of discomfort, partially knowing it was my last night. I would never have another night like this. I lay awake praying. For the baby, for me, for courage. I'd fall asleep mid-prayer, and wake up and say another. Six hours until we had to be at the hospital... Four... Two...
When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, sleepless, a little crampy, I was only 3 cm dilated. My nurse walked me through what was about to happen, hooked me up to a heart monitor (for both me and baby) and an IV with oxytocin (AKA the drug that was going to put me into labour). I don't know how to describe how I felt. I was too tired and too dazed at this new experience to feel anxiety or excitement or anything but calm, and a little numb.
From 8:00 to 10:00 am the contractions increased gradually, and I found the pain bearable. I had never ruled out an epidural, but I began to wonder if I could manage without it. I had actually spent most of my pregnancy convinced I would need a c-section because of my placenta position (and because my mother had three Caesarean sections, so I was even a little surprised I was even this far along on the vbac route. The nurse had explained that being induced with oxytocin would cause a sudden "jump" in contractions and pain, rather than the typical gradual increase that occurred during a natural labour. Maybe I was lucky. Maybe my threshold for pain was on my side. I mean, I can handle a bikini wax like a champ.
Suddenly I felt the "jump." It felt like I was going to pass out. Previously I had been rating my pain at a 3 or 4, and it had just spiked to a 10. By 10:30 a blessed angel came and gave me an epidural. The relief was instant. My entire body relaxed, and I was able to sleep through my contractions for the next two hours. By 12:45 I was fully dilated.
It's hard for me to fully remember everything that happened after that. It was all a little surreal, to feel everything, but just a dull pain due to the epidural. My nurse coached Patricio and I through several pushes, and just when Patricio was starting to see the top of the head all covered in thick, dark hair, the nurse told me to stop and called my doctor into the room. He coached us through a few more pushes, but our baby's heart rate was dropping dramatically each time I pushed, and he explained to me that it was urgent that we deliver as soon and as quickly as possible. My doctor recommended the use of a vacuum to help speed up the process - while it had it's risks, it was more risky to keep pushing and pushing and putting the baby in more distress.
The room filled with medical staff. Some were there to help with the birth, others there in case she had health complications due to her expected size. I waited for the next contraction, gave a single push with the aid of the vacuum, and felt the instant relief of pressure as Ramona Jean entered the world at 1:15pm, on May 7th, 2015.
"The umbilical cord is wrapped around her neck twice. That explains it," my doctor said quickly, as he unwrapped the cord from her little neck (Patricio told me later that he thought, in that moment, she was dead). She instantly started to cry, to our relief, and she was placed onto my chest. Her grey-purple colour began to fade away, and her cries turned into soft whimpers and then silent wonder as we looked into each other eyes. I could feel the tears start to well up. I couldn't believe she had just been inside of me, that she had been a part of me for all this time... And there she was!
The rest was a whirlwind. Patricio cut the umbilical cord, my doctor quickly gave me three stitches from a small tear, they briefly took Ramona to weigh and measure her, and the medical staff trickled away as they realized she was petite, but perfectly healthy, at 5lbs and 15oz. She latched and nursed beautifully right from the start (and had gained 2 ounces by her four day checkup). Family visited throughout the day and into the night. I ate my first real meal in months, without a hint of nausea. I wept just thinking about her growing any bigger.
We couldn't sleep that night. We just wanted to look at her, to check if she was breathing every few minutes, to hold her, to let it start to sink in that she was real, and she was ours.
And even now, I still find myself staring at her in wonder, thinking the same thing.