I’ve been both eager and terrified to write Lucy’s birth story. Eager because the experience is still so fresh and so raw and so full of emotion. Nervous because this time around my blog actually has followers and I know people are expecting this and reading this and there is no way that even the most talented writer could truly capture in words what the experience of childbirth is really like. Luckily I had a photographer documenting Lucy’s birth, so maybe the photos will do her story a little more justice (warning: there are some very real photos in here!). But since I like to call myself a writer, I’ll make a go at it with words, too.
Lucy came into this world on Monday, February 29th – my little(ish) leap year baby. In true Perlmutter/Richards style she waited until the last possible second to make her entrance – the morning of her scheduled induction. Since my 40 week ultrasound had her weighing in at 9.5 pounds, I was scheduled to be induced at 41 weeks – about 8 days (or 12 depending on which due date you go by) after her original due date.
Despite being 3cm dilated, almost fully effaced and experiencing frequent contractions since 38 weeks – a part of me knew this baby wasn’t coming out on her own.
While the extra weeks of waiting were trying on my body, it was a blessing in disguise for a number of reasons. The first being the 5 days I got to spend with my mom and Mia, and later my dad, aunts and cousins, before Lucy’s birth. I took Wednesday through Friday off of work and spent the days resting, eating, laughing and spending time with family. All the while slowly getting my house and body ready for birth. The other blessing of Lucy’s late arrival was that I was able to plan for our departure to the hospital. There was no middle of the night rush like when Mia was born.
I ate a delicious meal the night before (Dan made steak, rice pilaf, sautéed sugar snap peas and homemade biscuits for “the last supper”), I had all my family in place (including my mom on toddler middle-of-the-night-wake-up duty so I got a full night’s sleep), and was able to pack our bags, take a hot shower and even put on a little make up (bad idea – post delivery raccoon eyes FTW) before calmly saying “see you later” to Mia and loading into the car for a pain free ride to the Birthing Center at Maine Med.
We arrived at the hospital at 845am for the induction. I felt remarkably calm, considering the craziness I knew was just ahead. The plan was to break my water and hope labor progressed on its own, with Pitocin as a back up in case little Lucy still wouldn’t budge.
My doctor (the one I switched to after he so fabulously delivered Mia in lieu of my then-doctor) was not available, so my original doctor (the one that was supposed to deliver Mia originally but wasn’t on call at the time) came in to supervise the induction. Irony at it’s finest.
I’ll admit I was disappointed. I love my current doctor and trust him implicitly. Finding out he wasn’t going to be at Lucy’s birth was frustrating – but it was just the first in a series of events that once again reminded me I am not in control of this process, and the only thing I can do is give up, give in and let little Lucy write her own story.
Luckily, as soon as Dr. Raineville arrived I remembered why I chose her to be my doctor 5 years ago. She was calm, straightforward and reassuring. Non-judgemental and easy going. She was perfect.
After 2 or so hours of pre-admission paperwork and monitoring, it was finally time to start the induction. Our nurse’s name was Jen and she was fantastic. A 14 year labor and delivery veteran – she was confident, relaxed and knew just when to step in, and when to back off.
Jen put me on the monitor and seemed surprised that I was already contracting frequently on my own. I let her know this had been going on for a few weeks now – resulting in nothing but discomfort. She called in the resident doctor who checked me and confirmed I was still 3cm, 90% effaced. Right where I had been the week before.
After consulting via phone with Dr. Raineville, Jen confirmed the resident doctor would break my water and they would give me a couple hours to progress on my own before starting the Pitocin.
Cue the next thing that didn’t go “to plan.” The doctor wasn’t able to break my water because Lucy was wedged so deep into my pelvis that the amniotic sac was stretched tight over head. There was no “bubble,” so-to-speak, for the doctor to pop. Fifteen minutes of probing and scraping and fingers jammed WAAAAY farther into my cervix than anyone should ever have to imagine left me incredibly sore and no closer to going into labor than I was 8 days earlier.
Or so I thought.
As nurse Jen called in an order for Pitocin (a nasty synthetic labor drug known to cause absolutely brutal contractions) I found myself once again angry at the world for throwing my birth plan for a loop.
But labor is nothing if not unpredictable.
While nurse Jen was busy ordering the Pitocin – Lucy realized what was going on and shifted into high gear. Contractions started coming one after another – 2 minutes apart from the get go. I called nurse Jen back into the room and let her know I thought I was going into labor on my own. She called Dr. Raineville who gave me 2 hours to progress before starting the Pitocin.
I grabbed Dan and we head immediately for the hallway, ready to walk this baby out.
While we were walking my “labor support team” (made up of my mom and my aunt Janet) arrived at the hospital. My dad, and our birth photographer Carly were just a few hours behind them – waiting until I was in active labor to head in.
Now – I know most of you are probably thinking I’ve lost my mind. Who would want an entire entourage in the room with them while they moaned, screamed, and shit themselves in nothing but a nursing bra and mesh panties?
Lucy’s arrival was like the “Big Fat Greek Wedding” of births and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. If you know me, you know that modesty is not something I care much about – but family is. Childbirth is such an incredible experience, I wanted to share that moment with all the people I love the most, whether in person or via photos.
After my mom and Janet arrived, they waited inside the labor and delivery room while Dan and I continued circling the wing. We couldn’t have made it more than a couple laps before I was stopping 1, 2, 3 times per loop to breath through contractions that were intense enough to require focus and grit. Dan, eager for something to do besides watch me in pain, started timing my contractions and informed me they were indeed getting longer and closer together – really quickly.
Of course I already knew that.
Dan called our birth photographer and told her to come in. I told him to wait until the doctor checked me and made sure I was in fact in labor. But he knew better.
My mom and Janet joined us in the hallway and kept me busy chatting to keep my mind occupied in between contractions. There was one other person circling the labor unit with her partner, walking much faster and smiling much wider than I was. Nurse Jen told us earlier she was also having her second child, was 3cm dilated, and was being induced via water breaking. She said we could “baby race.”
What felt like 3 hours but I think was more like 20 minutes went by before my legs started buckling during contractions and I was digging nail marks into Dan’s side as I grabbed on to him for dear life. What had begun as painful cramping was now full on pelvic crushing agony and it took every ounce of focus and determination I had inside me to stay upright, to keep breathing, and to keep pushing forward.
Dan helped me back into our room where I collapsed on the floor and then screamed in agony as a contraction slammed into me on my hands and knees. Dan offered to help me back up but I waved him away – frozen in fear and concentration.
I told the nurse I wanted to be checked immediately.
She responded that they usually like to wait 2 hours before checking progression as it often takes that long to start dilating in early labor. I screamed through another contraction and she called the resident doctor into the room.
Dan lifted me onto the bed and the doctor quickly checked my cervix. I was 6cm.
Lucy had taken her sweet time deciding when to come out – but now that it was time the girl was on a mission. Fast and furious.
I asked for an epidural immediately.
I originally wanted to wait until our photographer arrived so she could get some shots of me laboring before the epidural. I had visions of Dan and I laboring in the tub or the shower – him applying counter pressure on my back as I powered through painful but beautiful contractions. But by the time we got back into our room I took one look at the tub and decided only modern medicine would do. Screw the pictures. By that point I would have let the parking garage attendant give me an epidural if it meant even an ounce of relief from the unrelenting pain.
I found out later that the labor and delivery anesthesiologist was in a c-section when I originally asked for him – and nurse Jen (bless her) recognized that I would not be able to wait, so she called a different anesthesiologist from another wing of the hospital.
While we waited for the epidural, our photographer arrived and she was able to snap a few shots of me laboring before the sweet, sweet pain relief. Those contractions were the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life. I labored for 12 hours with Mia before getting an epidural – and in all that time never experienced anything that held a candle to what I experienced in the 2 hours I labored naturally with Lucy. I won’t even try to describe the contractions because there are no words, and because I want the human race to continue to exist.
As soon as the anesthesiologist entered the room I blurted out “I consent to everything! Just give me the needle.” Unfortunately that doesn’t meet legal consent requirements so I was forced to recite my lifetime medical history, listen to a list of possible side effects, and sign 1572 legal documents that would never hold up in court because there is no way I was of sound mind when I signed them before they started the procedure.
It took about 15 minutes (7 contractions) for the epidural to take effect. The first contraction that came and went without a peak was enough to make me cry. Tears of joy.
The rest of my family was ushered back into the room, Dan was able to nurse his bite wounds (not even kidding) and I settled in for a calm, relaxing and peaceful remainder of my labor.
After the epidural I labored (painlessly) for about 3 hours before Dr. Raineville returned to check me again.
When she casually announced it was time to push and everything became surprisingly real. Despite being pregnant for more than 10 months it hadn’t quite set in that a baby was actually going to come out.
It also occurred to me that this would be the last time I would ever give birth. The last time I would reach down and lift up a new life onto my chest, into this world.
But before I could even begin to reflect a contraction took hold and I was being coached to push – harder, harder, harder…
“There’s her head!”
After just two pushes she started crowning and with the next contraction she literally slipped out, presenting herself with a loud scream before her shoulders even emerged.
Tears welled up in my eyes and I quickly searched for Dan’s face. His expressions when both of our babies were born are memories I will never, ever let go of.
I pulled Lucy up to my chest and cradled her tiny body in the palm of my hand.
In a room full of gratitude and love, after 3 pushes. 5.5 hours of labor and 41 weeks of pregnancy she was finally here.
Nine pounds and 22 inches of beautiful baby girl.
Welcome to the world Lucy AnnMarie Richards.