Birth stories are like war stories. Every mom has one. And they are not limited to moms who have physically given birth...they also apply to moms who have adopted. Perhaps they were there for the actual birth of their child, or perhaps they have another story about what happened when they first laid eyes on their child. Birth stories can be filled with pain, joy, sorrow, awe, or any other emotion you can think of.
I never actually wrote Elizabeth's story down. I have been meaning to since...well, since she was born, I guess. So I figure I need to do that before I have another birth experience in (hopefully) a few months, before I start confusing the details and can't remember what event happened when and with which child.
(Also, I think writing this down will help me realize that HOLY MOLY I am actually going to be giving birth again soon and I need to get my act together and GET READY)
And before I start, don't worry, I'm not going to write in any gross details that you really do not want to know. BUT the following words WILL be in this post: poop, cervix, dilated, amniotic fluid. If that grosses you out, then don't say I didn't warn you!!
*Looks at crowd*
I am well known for making grand plans, expecting they will happen the way I want them to, and then realizing that oops, I forgot God is in charge, not me. And almost every time, God's plan is a bit different than mine. It's always better, too. But sometimes I don't realize that until later. Sometimes WAYYY later.
My due date was December 15, 2012. EVERYONE (except maybe 2 people) said I was having a boy. People were having "dreams" and "visions" and "feelings" and they just knew it would be that way. I totally believed them, because I, too, had always envisioned that I would have only boys if God blessed me with children.
One of the "visions" someone had was that I would give birth on December 14. This person has actually made many predictions in the past, some frighteningly detailed, that have all come true. So I set my mind to it that December 14 was the day. "Perfect," I thought. "This way, I'll be home and ready for Christmas."
|Come on, baby! The room's all ready!|
(There was a time when her room was that clean?)
December 14 came. I waited all day, mentally willing the contractions to start. And, as I'm sure you are totally surprised and shocked to hear, notta one came. December 14 went. I was so disappointed (Looking back now I laugh at my naivety). "Well, my due date's tomorrow," I thought. "Surely it will happen in the next few days.
Every morning I went to Mass. Every morning, the Scripture readings were about Mary or Elizabeth waiting to give birth. Every morning, the priest preached about the season of Advent. And waiting. And why it's important. And how we as Americans are not good at waiting anymore. Every time, I chuckled at the irony of it all. As the days rolled on and on, I started to get mad. "Okay, God," I said, "This isn't funny anymore. Can you just MAKE THIS BABY COME ALREADY??!!" Because apparently talking to God like that will make everything just magically start going your way.
I went to a midwife (a wonderful, amazing, fantastic midwife who is one of the best human beings I know and I feel blessed that she is able to be the person to bring my children into the world) because I'm a hippie, and I wanted everything to be as natural as possible. I did not want to be induced unless it was medically necessary. I also wanted to attempt a natural delivery with no epidural. This was actually one area where I was realistic and understood that if I did, indeed, need to get an epidural, it would not be the end of the world.
|I'mmmmm dreaming of a baby-filled Christmas|
My midwife and I finally decided that if the baby did not come by Christmas, I would get induced Christmas night and have the baby the next day. When this sunk into my brain, I realized that ironically my "plans" might actually happen...I WOULD be home for Christmas. Just sans baby.
I went to Christmas Eve Mass with Trent and was somehow able to sit in the front row. During his homily, the priest gathered all the children together and asked them questions about Christmas. When he started discussing Mary, he asked them how many months does a baby grow inside his or her mother? All the kids said "NINE!" Father then said, "Very good! Although, in some cases, such as Ashley Gutridge who is sitting in the front row, it can take a bit longer!" The whole Cathedral turned and looked at me. I turned a shade of red that was probably very similar to the poinsettias adorning the altar.
I went to bed that night feeling very emotional. I knew this would be the last night of my "normal" life. The life that I had always known. Starting the next day, I would be responsible for another human being. It was such a surreal feeling.
I had a strange dream that night. It involved water. And suddenly I woke up, heard a "popping" sound, and realized that my water broke (I later found out it was not all of my water, but I didn't know any better since this had never happened to me before). I looked at the clock: 2am. Merry Christmas! I shook Trent's shoulders hard. "Whaaaa?" he asked groggily. "Trent, my water just broke," I said. He looked at me with a confused facial expression. "Are you serious?" he asked. We look back now and laugh that he thought I would have joked about that.
Another one of my "plans" was to stay home as long as possible before going to the hospital. If I was going to be uncomfortable during labor, I at least wanted to be in my own home. Apparently, though, if your water breaks, you're supposed to go to the hospital as soon as possible because of the risk of infection. I showered and stayed home about 4 hours, but then we decided it would be best to just go to the hospital. I was having contractions, but they weren't strong and they weren't close together. Ha! I thought to myself. If this is labor, I got this in the bag. This isn't so bad at all. I can hear all of you mothers out there laughing hysterically at my naivety. Because I'm doing the same thing. I had no idea what was coming.
I walked around the hospital room and the halls for a few hours, feeling pretty darned good. There was pain, but it was very manageable. They checked my cervix and found that I wasn't dilating. At all. And it had been about 6 hours since my water broke. Apparently there is a 24 window in which you must deliver the baby after your water breaks.
|12...or 23...and no, that's not a picture of Elizabeth|
By the way, labor nurses are saints. Hug all labor nurses that you know.
Elizabeth decided that she wanted to be posterior, which means her face was pointed toward my belly instead of my back. Apparently it makes labor last much longer, makes it more difficult for the baby to come out, and gives you constant pain in your back that I can't really describe (there's no "apparently" about the last fact. Trent spend a total of 12 hours, nonstop, applying pressure to my low back with his fist).
So the next 12 hours were spent with the moaning and the wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Apparently I sang a lot during my contractions. I don't remember this. In fact, I don't remember a lot of those 12 hours. Apparently we prayed an entire rosary with music. Apparently people came to see me. Apparently my mom kept Trent fed during those hours, and I yelled at someone for eating tuna because it smelled horrible.
Somewhere in that time, they broke my water, and it was full of meconium (when baby poops in uterus). This made everyone, especially my mom, very nervous, because it can be dangerous for the baby. This made us all hope and pray that things would go quickly.
At around 8pm, the contractions starting coming full force. There were no breaks. I remember
gripping the railing of my hospital bed and asking the nurse, "WHERE'S THE BREAK? WHY ARE THERE NO BREAKS? WHAT IS HAPPENING?" She checked how dilated I was. After 18 hours, 12 of which were hard labor, I was a whopping 4 cm dilated. I cried as much as the pain would allow it. At this rate I was going nowhere fast.
Then the doctor came in. A military, no nonsense, say-it-like-it-is sort of fellow. "Why in the hell are you not getting an epidural?" he asked. "Would you get your appendix taken out with no meds? No!" I finally agreed to it, and apologized to him through my sobs that he had to interrupt his Christmas to come see me.
The epidural guy (I know there's an official name for it but I don't know what it is) came in and asked me to stay still (a feat that felt more impossible than climbing Mt. Everest). He warned that the numbing needle might sting. I remember laughing out loud when the needle went in. You call that pain? I thought. That is like a mosquito bite compared to what I'm feeling now.
After a few minutes, I had a break in contractions, which was something that hadn't happened in awhile. Then my mom said, "you're having a contraction right now." And I felt NOTHING. No pain. I started sobbing from the sheer joy of it. It was truly amazing. I could breathe, and I could relax.
I truly believe that if I would not have gotten an epidural, I probably would have had to have a c-section. The epidural made my body relax, which caused Elizabeth to turn around into the correct position. I actually slept. This epidural thing was AWESOME. From that point on, I started progressing very quickly.
At about 12:30am, it was time to push. And I have to say, I was pretty proud of my pushing skillz. Being an oboist, I think, made it very, very easy because I was so accustomed to using my ab muscles to force air through my instrument. I was also used to taking big, deep breaths. The pushing part was truly amazing. I had no pain, and was able to really take it all in. We saw a little head with lots of brown hair. Then her face. Then, at 12:53am, Elizabeth Ann Gutridge was born.
They had people on standby with equipment in case she would aspirate the meconium. But good ol' Elizabeth screamed so loudly that there was NO question about it: she was okay. The midwife immediately handed her to me. "It's a girl!" Trent said. We were beyond shocked.
To this day, Elizabeth continues to surprise us. She does things her own way, she is full of drama, and she gives us a run for our money. But she is so FUN. She is full of spirit and life and laughter. There is never a dull moment. I feel like every day I get to know her better. I love her personality and her gibberish. I thank God every day for my little girl. It was a hard road to get you here, Elizabeth, but we wouldn't have it any other way!
|Leaving the hospital|
(no, I didn't accidentally pack a size 3 month
sweater for my newborn baby...uh...)