Baby Philippa Blair Bird was born early on Wednesday, June 25th, just after midnight. This is my birth story. Dum dum. (Trying to make the Law & Order sound).
I went to the gym that Saturday, the 21st in hopes of jump starting my labor. I walked vigorously on the treadmill trying to move my whole body and bounce as much as possible with every step. I’m sure I was a sight to see. Then I did some deep squats and yoga stretches. In the locker room after I felt a bit exposed in the shower. People could not not stare and I think every single person I came in contact with made a comment, including “Whoa! Holy pregnant!”
I think it worked though because the next morning I lost my mucus plug and started my bloody show (I know, tmi) which meant my cervix was beginning to thin out and open. By Sunday evening I was having cramps but I wouldn’t call them contractions. They were far apart and mildly uncomfortable but not the hit-by-a-Mack-truck feelings I remembered from Shepard’s birth. The cramping continued through Monday but I tried to just go about my business. I even went to Costco to get some last minute stuff like a huge tray of pineapple which is supposed to induce labor. Later I read you’d have to eat twelve whole pineapples to get whatever enzyme it is to induce labor. Anyway, I had a feeling that might be my last outing.
Monday I got hit by a major curve ball. My 16 year old cat, Oscar, whose health has been declining for a number of years, looked like he was about to die. He’s been on meds twice a day for 3 years for his hyper-thyroidism and two years ago he was viciously attacked by a neighborhood cat so it wasn’t a shock but the timing couldn’t have been worse. I think he had used up all his 9 lives. He seemed to be in a coma. He couldn’t lift his head up much less get up. I called his vet to make an appointment for the next day to be put to sleep. In retrospect we should’ve taken him that night to an emergency vet but at the time it seemed like the best thing was to just leave him peacefully in his bed. We were going the next day to my doctor in Santa Monica so it just made sense to go to his vet, who had treated him for years, the next day on the way. He didn’t seem to be in pain.
By about 11 that night I turned a pain corner where I started thinking these cramps may be contractions. I started timing them and they were lasting from 30 seconds to a minute every 5-20 minutes. They weren’t that regular. Last time they were strong and every 7 minutes right from the start. Then they went to 5, then 3 minutes apart. This was still random but definitely getting more painful. My doctor had told me with a second birth it could go much faster so as soon as I felt those strong contractions, head to the hospital. I called her to tell her what was going on but she said to wait a bit longer until the pain was more intense and more regular. She said in three hours it could be a different story. I called to warn my back up team because I didn’t want to have to wake Shepard in the middle of the night. He’ll be traumatized enough without mommy for a couple days plus bringing home a baby sister. Either Suzy or my mom was going to come over if we had to leave in the middle of the night.
Shepard woke me at 7:45 Tuesday morning, the 24th, my due date. All of us, including Oscar, made it through the night and I was even able to sleep a little. I was still feeling “contractions” but they just weren’t that painful and still not that regular. I started getting bummed out. Is anything really happening? I went out to check on Oscar. He looked the same. Very bad, but breathing. I didn’t think he would make it to his noon appointment though. His breathing was slower and he looked like he would naturally pass away at any time, like Little Little had, which I think is a preferable way to go. Oscar always hated going to the vet. I hated to have his final moments on a cold, metal table.
My 40 week appointment was at 2:40. Again I just went about my day. Had breakfast of eggs, toast and coffee. I made sure everything was packed. Made arrangements for Shep to go to Amanda’s. I spent a long time sitting with Oscar, telling him I loved him and what a great cat he was. I moved him outside to a shady, cool spot in the yard, in Sammy’s dog house on some towels. There was a pleasant breeze and the birds were chirping. He seemed ready to go.
I was feeling very drained already and decided to lie down again. This baby, since about 20 weeks was always so active in the womb. She would kick the crap out of me. But as I was lying there, supposedly in labor, I put my hands on my belly and felt nothing. No big deal, she could be sleeping. I’ll just shift around. Nothing. I waited 10 minutes, lifting my hips and shaking my belly every minute or so. Nothing. Don’t panic. I went out to the living room and got on my ball and started bouncing vigorously. I’d stop, put my hands firmly on my belly. Usually after something like that I would see and feel my belly undulating with the baby just beneath the surface. Absolutely nothing. At this point I was freaking out a little. I called Alan in and we did the same experiments and even added eating a brownie (she usually went nuts with sugar) to the same result – nothing. I called the doctor and told her the baby’s not moving! She seemed totally unfazed by this. “Has it been more than a hour?” I said it had been about 30 minutes. “Ok, I want you to go drink a glass of cold juice. There should be some movement.” She went on to say when you’re in labor the baby moves a lot less but if I’m worried about it come in early.
I drank the juice and waited. I drank a lot of juice. Then after a solid 10 minutes I felt the tiniest, faintest nudge. I wasn’t even sure if I had imagined it. Also we know three people who have had stillborn, full term babies at 8 and 9 months and that was the only thing in my head. When you think something might be wrong with your baby, that is the only thing that matters. You act. We grabbed our bags, grabbed Shepard, hastily strapping him into his car seat. My sister was at the church up the street so we sped there and transferred Shep into her car. I know he was like, ‘What’s going on, Mommy?’ We said a quick goodbye and sped off. We also made the decision to leave Oscar behind, something I never would’ve done had I not been in labor and terrified that the baby might not be alive inside me. In more normaI circumstances I would’ve stayed with him until he died or taken him to the vet but both of those options seemed impossible.
My beloved Oscar sitting on Little in healthier times.
It seemed like a long ride to Santa Monica though the traffic was very light. We barely spoke as Alan drove. I couldn’t get into those stirrups fast enough. Finally the doctor did an ultrasound and those seconds she was moving the wand around my belly stretched out to hours until she found the comforting bum bum bum of the heartbeat. Everything was okay. She checked my dilation and I was now between 2-3 cm but my amniotic fluid was low. She said everything is fine but let’s get this baby out. She’s ready. Then I hear the dreaded words, “Go straight to the hospital and we’ll start you on Cervidil to kick up your labor.” I protested a little that I’m just at 40 weeks, not over my due date. She said my placenta was aging. It looked more like 41 weeks and my fluid was low which is probably why the baby isn’t moving. She said they’d just do a little Cervidil and that would kick my labor into high gear. Again, when you think something might be wrong or you might be harming your baby in some way, your perfect birth plan goes out the window – you act. We agreed to go to the hospital.
We were so relieved when we left her office but we felt we couldn’t go straight to the hospital. We wanted to start over with this birth and be more relaxed so we headed to what Alan calls ‘Blair’s Beach’ at Lifeguard 26. We walked for about 20 minutes which wasn’t easy but I wanted gravity to do its work as much as possible so they might not have to induce me. Then we just sat and reflected on life. I kept thinking, isn’t it weird all these people are just having a regular day at the beach while I’m in the midst of a major life moment and gearing up to do the hardest work of my life? After the beach we decided to get some dinner since they don’t let you eat once you get to the hospital. We went for sushi. The baby was coming soon so I didn’t think raw fish could harm her at that point. The sushi chef and waitress seemed nervous since every few minutes I would lean over and grimace through a contraction.
We got to Saint John’s at 6pm. Alan let me out with our bags while he parked the car. I was going to just wait for him on the curb but as he pulled off a man hurried up to me and said “He can’t just leave you here! I’m taking you in.” I love Saint John’s. On the elevator ride up to Labor & Delivery he said, “How’s Paco?” When my expression was puzzled and a little alarmed that he knew my dog’s name, he started laughing, “Got you! I know your husband from Groundworks (The Venice coffee shop).” By the time Alan found me I was already admitted into the hospital and in a green gown. “Whoa, they don’t kid around here!”
Our nurse came in shortly. Her name was Molly too! She was almost as tall as Alan and 7 months pregnant. She checked my dilation and I was between 3-4 cm so the beach walk did a little something. She said it’s too late for Cervidil which is usually used to induce labor when the cervix is totally closed. We’ll go straight to Pitocen. Again I said, “Can’t we just wait a little and see how I go?” But this is when the “hospital birth” experience began.
That was the moment I wished I was home or in a birth center because unless you really fight, the hospital birth protocols take over. I want to say also that this nurse couldn’t have been more lovely or nicer but it was kind of clear that with my age and low fluid level, etc, I didn’t have much of a choice. She said she would monitor the baby for about 45 minutes before starting the Pit. First they did the Hep lock which I was more nervous about than pushing the baby out. I had to do it so I turned my head away, gripped Alan’s hand and just tried to breathe into my happy place. I knew all of this was getting me closer to my baby and she was really good so it was over quickly. I asked for the Hep lock to be covered so I didn’t have to look at it. Okay, the worst (in my mind) was done. I felt such relief.
Continued in Part II….