After our last doctor’s appointment at 41 weeks, they called me on Monday November 28th to tell me that I was scheduled to induce labor on Wednesday December 7th at noon. Forty-two weeks would have been December 8th so it made sense, although I felt bad about having it scheduled for Clarke’s birthday. Ever since we got her due date (November 24th – Thanksgiving), we’d joked that if she were two weeks late, they could share a birthday. This happened last year with our godson Christopher; due on Thanksgiving and born on December 7th. Clarke had been going back and forth with his thoughts on sharing his birthday with his daughter and ended up thinking it’d be pretty special.December 7th began as usual for me, taking Harley for his morning walk. Our contractor was here working on the house. Clarke met up with friends for a surf session and a birthday coffee while I finished putzing around the house getting last minute things ready. We’d had the bags packed and the car seat in the car since 36 weeks so we were very prepared on that front. Clarke returned with a guava cheese pastry for me from Azucar as my “last meal”. By 11am we were sitting on the couch with Harley just hanging around and waiting until 11:30 to leave. We took Harley on one last walk (Clarke’s mom, Judy, came to take Harley shortly after we left) and got in the car. I felt so weird. This was not how I pictured the trip to the hospital would be, and frankly I wasn’t very excited about being induced. I was worried about Harley, who has been stressing during the louder portions of construction. I cried as we drove away from the house. I was excited and scared and nervous to finally be going to the hospital and yet it all felt totally surreal, this (relatively) calm drive to meet our baby.
We checked into Scripps Mercy, filled out some paperwork and went into labor and delivery room 8. Our nurses were, coincidentally, the same two nurses who gave me the non-stress test the week before and I felt very comfortable with them. Clarke handed over a copy of our birth plan which basically stated that I wanted as natural a birth as possible but was willing to do whatever necessary to have a healthy baby in the end. The nurses explained that they’d be administering Cervidil to “ripen” my cervix, a medication that is the less intense than Pitocin. That was something I hadn’t been expecting and it helped a good deal in relaxing my fears about inducing labor. They said the medication stayed inserted for twelve hours at which point they may need to move on to Pitocin depending on how things were progressing. Well, we thought, perhaps she won’t be born on Clarke’s birthday after all. I had been having very light contractions for about a week and had hoped I’d be more dilated, but alas no, I was still only at 1 cm dilated. They hooked up the external monitors, one for fetal heart rate and one for contractions, and gave me an IV in my right hand (which the nurse did pretty well considering my tricky veins). Because of the Cervidil, I had to stay lying down. I was allowed to stand up to use the bathroom and the nurses suggested that when I did get up, to take that time to move around instead of just peeing and returning to the bed. While attached to the monitors, I couldn’t go further than a few feet but was able to stretch my legs and work out the kinks; Clarke was a great stretching coach. We began watching Sweet Home Alabama on the laptop. About two hours (?) after being admitted (it was hard for me to keep track of time in there), the nurses became concerned that the baby’s heart rate dropped a few times during contractions. They said if this continued, they’d have to remove the Cervidil and once removed it could not be replaced; at which point a C-section was pretty much the only option to keep both me and the baby safe. They couldn’t determine the cause for the fetal stress, but possible options they told us were meconium in the placenta, an old (past due date) placenta that isn’t strong enough for the contractions, or the umbilical cord placement being wrong. They called my obstetrician and decided to monitor it a bit longer before making any decisions. They had the IV flowing and put an oxygen mask on me. After they left the room, I broke down. I didn’t want surgery but I really didn’t want our baby to be in any danger. Part of me was ready to tell them to do the C-section right now and get her safe. We resumed watching the movie to keep me distracted.
At some point I managed to sleep a little bit. Clarke said I continued to have stronger contractions, but clearly nothing strong enough to wake me up. The baby’s heart rate was looking good until another deceleration (drop in heart rate) occurred and the nurses came back in again to reposition the monitors to ensure that it wasn’t a result of the monitor not being positioned properly. Again came the conversation that we may have to do a C-section. We told them that we’d do whatever to keep her safe. I took this round much better than the last (at least I think I did). We tried watching television to keep distracted but I kept my eyes on the monitors a lot. The nurses’ shift ended and I met my night nurse, who was just as nice as the others. The contractions continued getting stronger and suddenly there were three nurses rushing into our room. One watched the monitors, one of them removed the Cervidil and the third came at my left arm with a needle. I barely had a chance to ask what it was (something to stop the contractions) before she injected me. It all happened very quickly which only succeeded in scaring me more. They monitored me a while longer to see how baby did without the Cervidil but when another deceleration occurred, this time not during a contraction, they called in the obstetrician. I had been laboring about six hours.The obstetrician I’d seen throughout my pregnancy, Dr. Hui, wasn’t on call that night so her colleague, Dr. Van Den Heuvel (who we’d met), was coming in to do the C-section. Once Dr. Van Den Heuvel arrived, she came in to talk to us and said that she was confident that a C-section was the best route to go. It wasn’t an emergency C-section, which she said could happen if we continued to wait. She explained the procedure, asked if we had any questions and away we went. While Clarke suited up and waited in the hallway, they took me into the operating room. I tried to avert my eyes from all the operating equipment; I didn’t like thinking of this as an operation. I climbed on the table and closed my eyes. I was leaning forward on the nurse (Mary Jo) to allow the anesthesiologist access to my spine. As the anesthesiologist injected the spinal block, my left leg shot out of its own accord and kicked Mary Jo. It felt like I’d hit my funny bone, if my funny bone were in my leg instead of my elbow. The anesthesiologist said this happens because I wasn’t totally centered and that my left leg would go numb first shortly followed by my right leg. It all happened in less time that it took me to write this sentence. Suddenly I was totally numb from waist down and the numbness was spreading up my body. It was a feeling I never want to feel again, the complete lack of control over my own body. Mary Jo deftly swung my legs up on the table and the nurses (several of them) adjusted me. I had enough feeling in my arms to lay them outstretched to each side (the table looked like a big cross and I really tried not to think about it that way). Everyone moved quickly but not rushed. They inserted a catheter and set up the screen (I did not want to watch). Clarke was finally let in and came to sit by my head. It went quickly, maybe 30 minutes. The whole time I kept my eyes closed, just listening to Clarke’s voice and trying to ignore the other noises in the room. I could feel slight tugs and pulls from my stomach region which was weird but oddly reassuring that I wasn’t permanently numb. Suddenly, I heard her cry. The doctor said that C-section babies don’t always cry right away and that is perfectly normal and fine. But not our little girl. She let out a wail as soon as they got her out. Clarke and I both began crying. Clarke went over to watch her and cut her umbilical cord, and then brought her over by my head so I could take a look at our baby girl. She looked so pale wrapped in a white blanket with a white beanie but the doctor said she was totally fine. I just kept staring at her and listening to Clarke’s voice while they finished the procedure. My body (what I could feel of it) began to shake uncontrollably, but the anesthesiologist said that was a normal reaction after giving birth and not to fight it. Once everything was done, they put her on my chest. I was afraid at first because every part of my body was either numb or shaking, but she lay there with her warm body and I put my arms around her and the shaking slowed. They told us that there was meconium (poop) in the placenta and that some was found in her mouth and throat but thankfully not in her lungs. This was the cause of the fetal stress. They wheeled us into a recovery room where we spent the next two hours. The nurse put her in a bassinet nearby for a little bit while checking her out, but otherwise she spent her time on my chest with Clarke right by our side. Around 1:30am (December 8th), we were taken to our room. The nurse gave her a bath and we spent more time cuddling before finally all falling asleep. Several nurses came in and out to check on me and the baby throughout the night (I guess technically, it was morning). Around 7am, Clarke began making phone calls, text and Facebook posts announcing the arrival of our daughter, Ashlyn Kailani Kay Graves.
Ashlyn – the name Clarke would have had if he had been a girl, a derivation of his mother’s maiden name
Kailani – kai is Hawaiian for sea (pronouced ky, rhymes with sky), lani is heavenly
Kay – for my mom
As I finish writing this, our baby is one week old and life has never been better.
Ashlyn Kailani Kay Graves, born December 7th, 2011 at 10:17 pm. 7 pounds, 11 ounces, 21 inches long. Ashlyn’s photo gallery