Jackson's Birth Story
Every New Year’s Eve, in sentimental homage, I think back to all the events and celebrations large and small, I’ve taken part in to commemorate the passing of the years. Up to this point, the night we spent at the Hyatt downtown, amidst all appropriate glitz and glamour, held top honors for the most memorable. December 31st, 1997, however, blew all contenders out of the water, probably for the next 30 years as well. As the ball dropped and the time zone rejoiced, Eric and I calmly pulled out of the parking lot at Grindstone Charlie’s, heading for the Meijer store down the street. Earlier that day, I had gotten up to prepare for my appointment, thinking to myself that most likely, this would be “the” day. I felt my body and baby were quite ready, and was planning on having the doctor perform a little “procedure” at my 11:00 appointment, to ideally stimulate labor (sometimes does, sometimes doesn’t). Although not officially “due” until the following day, I had finally decided that, if at all possible, we should try to slip the little guy out in time for the tax deduction this year. I guess it’s going to have to come out of his allowance. Mild contractions did start around noon, but I had been having those for several weeks so, although quite hopeful, I wasn’t pulling out the stopwatch just yet. I went about my regular day with the girls (daughters Zoe & Alexi, 5 & 4), called my Mom, and attempted to pack a few things. I was a little disappointed I couldn’t call Eric and tell him to run home from work early to have a baby that afternoon, but I humbly acknowledged it may take a while to get things going. Plenty of time until midnight! With each passing hour, I got a little more discouraged. Eric had come home from work at the usual time, and we applied some “home remedies” I had read about to stimulate labor. (Who knows what affect they really had, but they were good for morale.) But by seven I decided I probably wasn’t going to get my wish that night, so we would just go out to eat and maybe stop by a friend’s party later. I was pretty tired by then so I decided to lie down for a short while before taking the kids to Mom’s. When I emerged from the bedroom an hour later, I told Eric I was going to call the doula, because it looked like we were going to have this baby after all. It was quite strange. As the contractions finally intensified, I found myself calm, though totally disoriented. I was trying to finish packing the suitcases, but it seems I could barely see straight, running around here and there forgetting what I was doing. Eric of course commented that that was nothing unusual for me. Although a little uncomfortable, we had a nice dinner at Grindstone Charlie’s. I figured I should get my sustenance while I could, because there would probably be a starvation policy in place at the hospital. We spent an hour or so there chatting with a couple who seemed quite taken with the fact that I was in labor (opposed to the waiter, who seemed to think we had all year!) We contemplated their suggestions for baby names, and discussed whether we wanted to go to the party, or wait out the last half hour of the year there in the bar. (Stubborn little brat! Oh well.) The contractions had gotten slowly but consistently stronger. I decided that I needed to walk, and I wanted to go. There was just a couple minutes left before midnight. “Who cares!” It was cold out, and the only place I could think of to go walking, that would still be open at this hour on New Year’s Eve, was Meijer. Good old 24-hour Meijer! I could even pick up some stuff for the baby while I was there. A couple minutes later, Eric and I stole a kiss as we left the parking lot. By the time I waddled back to the baby department, I was alternately pacing and pausing, trying to alleviate this intermittent “pain-like discomfort”. Eric looked at basketball shoes; I picked out baby clothes. Eric looked for slippers; I went up front to find a comfortable chair. Eventually the manager noticed me sitting there in the only padded chair for miles, trying to be inconspicuous. “Are you okay? Do you want me to call somebody?” “Oh no, I’m fine. Just waiting for my husband.” Well, the next person who asked, I sent back to find Eric and tell him it was time to go! Still fine, but wanting to go to the hospital to get “checked”. My first two children were induced, so this was my first experience with spontaneous labor. Not really feeling confident in my own ability to assess my progress, I worried that if I misjudged and waited too long, my doula wouldn’t make it to the birth or, worse yet, I wouldn’t even make it to the hospital until the last excruciating second! Didn’t want that. I just wanted to get settled, and get this show on the road. I told the nurse when I arrived that I was there to be “checked”, and that they might decide to send me home. I thought there might be a possibility of my misjudging the labor because I had never done this before, and the pain was still quite tolerable. Turns out I was a good 4-5 centimeters. From that point on, I followed my instincts without hesitation. That however, didn’t entirely work to my advantage by the time all was said and done. Initially, I received my first, and it turns out only, internal exam, and we ran a strip on the baby with the external monitor. He sounded great, and I was having strong, steady contractions about two minutes apart. After about 20 minutes I got up to take a walk and wait for Kristin, my doula, to arrive. (A doula is a labor support person who helps and comforts the woman or couple during labor. An invaluable asset! I actually met mine on an e-mailing list for doulas. A coincidence that she lived here and worked at this hospital! This list has people from all over the world!) I had taken the time beforehand to prepare a detailed “birth plan” outlining my preferences and how I would like my labor and delivery to proceed. This included a precipitous, unmedicated birth. I was in charge, well prepared, and quite optimistic! Since I had discussed it with my doctor, and had he and his alternate both sign it, the nurses didn’t bat an eye. In fact our nurse, Liz, took the time to get me a pop before she left, since I had specified that I be allowed to eat and drink if I felt the need. Good thing too, because I seemed to have an incredibly powerful thirst for about the next 24 hours. Chatting happily with Eric, I paced up and down the halls of the “Family Rooms”. This was a brand new, often described as “hotel-like” facility, in the very same hospital which hosted my own birth 30 years before. This was a stark contrast to those days however, evoking jealous lament from my mother over the 15 cozy, private LDPR rooms (labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum) decorated in all the latest colors and comforts. (Just one of the benefits of living in a fairly large and progressive city.) I stopped at the nurses station to request the birth ball, which I was hoping was not already in use since they had only one. Surprisingly, the nurse said she didn’t think anyone had ever used it before (I knew however, it had been used by women utilizing the doula services provided by the hospital). They set about trying to wash and sanitize this great big awkward thing before handing it over. As Eric and I were bouncing and kicking it across the carpet, Kristin stepped off the elevator. In her usual style, she told me I looked great, and was doing so well, and everything I wanted to hear that gave me the confidence to do this. The three of us and this giant rubber ball lumbered down the hallway to room five, excited and ready to have a baby. We hung around the room, chatting and pacing as the contractions, already quite strong, grew increasingly stronger. (My recollections get a little fuzzy from this point on, but I think I can re-create the experience.) I experimented sitting and leaning on the ball, the nurse came back and we ran another strip with the monitor, and eventually my (17 year old) sister Erin came in with her friend Suzy. Also during this time, I had told Eric to go ahead and take a nap because Kristin was with me, and it may be awhile before things got more serious. I have no idea how long this period lasted, but it turns out I was wrong about having time for a nap. We had checked in at about 1:20 in the morning. At 3:30, while pacing back and forth and chatting with Erin, Suzy and Kristin, my water broke. (Good thing I was wearing one of those gi-mongus pads they give you. Erin was on the phone with our sis Jody at the time and said something like “Oh yuck! Is it all over the floor?!”) Now, there are two things I should have done at this point. One was to wake Eric up (asleep on the “husband’s couch” there in the room), and two was to send Erin home to get my Mom and Jody, who wanted to witness the blessed event. Inside, I knew what this meant, but I was slightly uncertain and preoccupied, so I kept quiet. All I could think was that now the contractions were going to get much worse. Oh dread! I had read enough birth stories to know that this was often a catalyst to labor. I knew my moment was at hand! Oh no! Ow Ow! Guess I should have shared the revelation with someone else, because apparently I was the only one aware! I sat on the ball through a couple contractions and then decided to use the bathroom. When I was finished, I leaned over the sink and thought to myself “Ow ow! I don’t know if I can do this! I don’t want to do this anymore!” Then, knowing the signs, I laughed to myself (after the contraction was over of course!) “Hey, transition! Cool, I’m almost done!” I came out and said something to that effect to Kristin. She didn’t realize that, even though I was joking, I was serious about entering transition! Sitting on the birth ball and leaning against the foot of the bed, I began to moan and feel slightly nauseous, and was having trouble catching my breath during the frequent, though mercifully short contractions. I told Erin she should go get Mom now. I think she was glad for the excuse to leave, as things were rapidly becoming more and more unpleasant! It’s a less than 5 minute trip from the hospital to Mom’s house, but as Erin and Suzy left the room, I knew it was too late. When I had called Mom upon check-in, she told me I was too worked up and should go home and take a nap. Uh-huh. She had been through childbirth 11 times on her own. She should have known better! This baby was on his way! >From that point on, with each contraction my voice got louder and louder. I must say, never in my life have I heard myself scream like that. It was wild. Extremely powerful and overwhelming. This is about the time Eric woke up. I just remember him being at my side. I put my right arm around his neck and leaned back. Funny, at the time I realized I was screaming in his ear. I felt bad about that, but he wasn’t complaining. I was still sitting on the ball at the foot of the bed, and Kristin was behind me, holding me up as I leaned back with each contraction. (I never considered that labor “support” might mean literally! What a woman!) I knew things were happening, and it was encouraging. I could feel progress with every contraction and that eliminated much of the fear. I was actually doing it! (Ouch!) I was also kind of in my own little world. The nurse came in about then and said she was going to check me. I just said “There ain’t no way I’m laying down for that!” Okey-doke! She didn’t argue. She did however, reach down and put her hands on me, then got up very quickly. I asked “So where are we?” As she ran out the door she said “eight.” It was right about then that Eric kissed me on the forehead and said “Geez babe, he’s got hair!” (I distinctly remember the wondrous sparkle in his eyes.) I had mearly asked “where we were” because the nurse hadn’t said anything. Don’t know why she said eight! Trying to psyche me out or something! I had felt the pushing contractions start, about 4 contractions before the nurse came in. I knew I was close and had been waiting for them (desperately!). At first the feeling was kind of vague. I expected, based on other women’s stories I’d read, for the pain to simply be replaced by another sensation. Nope. Just a new pain on top of the old one. A very powerful pain at that! It didn’t really occur to me to stop it, or call for the doctor or anything. I was doing just fine and could have birthed the baby right there on my own. Eric would have caught him. Too bad it couldn’t have worked out that way. What did happen was, that after planning for so long, and achieving every goal I had thus far, I lost control. Rather, it was taken from me. I had stated that following my instincts had not entirely worked to my advantage. Well, in retrospect, I see that if I had enlisted the help of a nurse just a little earlier, I would have been able to maintain more control over what went on. Instead, I caught everyone off guard and the staff was in a panic. Not being “ready”, they didn’t really know what to do, so they just went with the old standard. The intern who “delivered” the baby certainly didn’t have time to read my birth plan! My original, very understanding and forward-thinking doctor, just happened to be out of town for the holiday, and his replacement (whom I had contacted before leaving Meijer) was 20 minutes away! Someone did finally think to call her after the birth though. After Liz had “checked” me, and “called ( ! )” for the doctor, things really picked up. All I remember is one nurse flying by telling me to “breath through it honey”, and Kristin immediately leaning forward and saying “Just do what your body tells you, Janette.” Even in the midst of everything, that struck me as funny (the contradiction). I wasn’t about to “breath through it!” (Meaning “pant, don’t push, just wait for us”. This illustrates the difference between help from the hospital staff, and help from your exclusive support person!) It seems to me to be the ultimate cruelty to insist a woman “breath through” a sensation so powerful and painful, because the staff doesn’t know how to “catch” a baby without all their fancy equipment at the ready! (As if it is a production they are directing!) I don’t think I could have stopped the pushing if I tried. I wasn’t really actively pushing at that point. My body was doing it all and I wasn’t stopping it! Somehow there appeared around me a myriad of kindly, nervous, loud women, all insisting that I move to the bed. What? Why?! I was so comfortable on the ball, leaning back against Kristin almost horizontally through every contraction. I know Kristin was working pretty hard, but she wasn’t complaining, and it was working for me!! Actually, I was simply afraid the effort of getting up and moving would result in more unnecessary, excruciating pain. I could see their point though. I must have looked pretty unstable, not to mention I was making quite a mess all over the ball and the floor. It honestly wouldn’t have been a problem delivering “on the ball,” and if this had been a home birth I would have, but the doctor and nurses couldn’t handle such a thing. So after a contraction or two, I gave in and they picked me up by my limbs and placed me squarely on my back at the end of the bed. In all the hubub no one thought to break down the bed, so even though the head of the bed was raised, I was at the foot, so I couldn’t sit up. At that point I was in too deep to care. I couldn’t think of anything but what my body was doing. It’s a shame, because this was the point I had been looking forward to and preparing for all these months. I was going to watch as my baby’s head and body emerged, and take him into my arms as soon as he was free. I wanted to cuddle him and look into his eyes, and feel the warm steamy feeling of his soft new body. I had never done that before, and I knew this was my last chance. I wanted to witness my son’s first miracle, and share these first moments of joy with him. But that’s not what happened. I pushed once or twice and his head was out. It felt like it already was. It was hard for me to tell! Then they kept telling me I had to push to get the shoulders out. I was waiting for the next contraction (or maybe they just stopped due to my position), and wanted to rest for a minute, but they kept telling me “You’ve got to push now!” So then I did. One long hard push, and both shoulders popped out (I felt that!) I asked “Is he out now?” Not quite. Whoa, there’s the body. Now they had him. Three fifty-eight A M, New Years Day 1998. Nobody really said anything, so I asked to make sure he was a boy. (Ultrasound at 20 weeks said so.) I heard the doctor ask for a cord clamp, and I immediately said “No! Don’t clamp.” I felt the transitional time was important for the baby to get a good start at breathing and maintaining his oxygen level. I said it again “Don’t clamp!” The doctor said “We need to.” and clamped off our cord. Eric then looked at me as if to apologize, and went to cut it. I don’t tolerate being blown off very well, but in that position, what could I do?(The only thing about the entire experience that really angers me!) I asked for the baby, and Eric and Kristin both said “Give her the baby. Put him on her stomach.” So they brought him up. He was all covered in blood, and they wrapped a little blanket around him and started rubbing as they laid him on me. He was cute. Not bloated or misshapen (as my girls had been). A respectable covering of dark baby hair, an adorable heart-shaped jaw and chin, expressive mouth, and dark, curious bright-open eyes. A little blue and floppy, but he was alert and making cute little baby sounds. From my prone position it was kind of tough, but I tried to cradle him. The nurses kept rubbing him and saying “We need to take him…” “I just want to hold him and look at him for a minute” “…to warm him up…” “I can keep him warm just fine.” “…to check him out…” “He seems okay to me.” “…he’s not crying…” “Good. He’s not distressed. He’s talking to me though.” “We need to give him oxygen…” “Oh. I guess he is still a little bluish. Okay.” Too bad he hadn’t gotten that extra oxygen from his cord! So they took him. Well now that all the excitement was passed, they thought to get out the stirrups and all to “patch me up”. I hate that part more than anything else (pain included!) But I must acknowledge it is rather important. Everything was fine until those shoulders came out. Yowch! Life isn’t exactly fair in that particular department. The placenta had passed without much fanfare, but boy, what a relief! (It was huge!) I was really disappointed though, that I didn’t feel immediately terrific as promised by all the natural childbirth enthusiasts. Can’t quite figure that one out. The hospital staff is probably still scratching their heads over why, after all the hard part is done, NOW I ask for drugs! But I did. My baby was safely out of the way, so now I could pop all the pills I wanted and not worry about them affecting him. It was a serious ache I had, which I know I didn’t have after my two previous “unnatural” births. Go figure. (I still felt it was more than worth it though! He was a healthy 8.5 lbs, same as my first.) I can remember asking the nurses about the other moms there at the time. I felt a profound sense of empathy toward these women, still going through labor in rooms nearby. “The poor, poor things, I hope it’s over for them soon” I thought. Now, several weeks later, time has softened the memory a bit, but I know it was extremely trying if for no other reason than the memory of that deep and sincere commiseration. I was also exhausted. I took only one of the two codine tablets they offered, for fear it would put me to sleep, and I wanted to go down to see “the baby” (as yet unnamed). I washed it down with a couple gallons of orange juice and water. Mom, Jody and Erin came in and we sat around with Kristin, relaxing and talking about the night. (The nurse commented that she was going to start using that ball more often!) Jody had been at home baking me some cinnamon rolls (hit the spot!) thinking it would be several hours before the babe made his entrance. Not! I was sorry they had missed everything, but I think it worked out better that way. I had felt pretty comfortable with all present, though I think a few more might have been a distraction I didn’t need. It wasn’t exactly the calm, peaceful Bradley birth I had ideally envisioned. But actually, overall, I was very pleased. It was really only the last 15 minutes or so that things got crazy. Other than that, it was almost easy. (Stress- “almost!”) I attribute my relative “success” to the fact that I was well prepared, and informed enough to have the confidence that I knew what I was doing, and could trust my body. Kristin had been instrumental in helping me learn about the natural quality of birth, and encouraging me to trust my knowledge and instincts regarding the entire process. That is where she helped me out the most. Many women need much more of the “hands-on” help for comfort during labor. She had done such a good job of reassuring me and helping me prepare, that I was relatively independent when it came to the actual event. (It also helped that it wasn’t long and drawn out like it is for many.) I think the biggest difference between this birth and the previous two, was that before, it was something that “was happening to me”, supervised and directed by the medical staff. This time, it was something that “I was doing!” I was pretty groggy still after an hour or so, so I decided to take the other pill and go to sleep. I just didn’t have the strength to make it down to the nursery. But, as it turns out, that other pill was just what I needed. It enabled me to relax. With that and a little bit of time, my head cleared and I really woke up. I was excited, and Mom & Kristin and I sat in the dark room and talked until about six. At that time, Mom and Kristin went home, and Eric finally took me down to see our son. I was disappointed when I got there though. They had him under an oxygen tent due to “rapid breathing”, and I wasn’t allowed to hold him. (Just play with his feet which were sticking out of the tent. And of course that set off his monitor alarms.) Obviously they wouldn’t let me nurse him, so they gave us the option of putting a tube down his throat, or having the nurse give him a bottle. He’s a good boy. He promptly spit the formula up all over the nurse’s hand. Guess I wasn’t the only one resentful of this intrusion! I really wanted to be the first to feed him. (I could have scrubbed up!) They did let us hold him at our next visit several hours later. Not sure what was so different that time around! I then was able to help as he was given his first “bath”, which he did not like, but I enjoyed! (Even screaming, he was adorable.) The hospital had a rooming-in policy, and only the babies who needed “special care” stayed in the nursery. They were also concerned about his seemingly lethargic nature. Actually he just wanted to sleep for the first couple days, and is just naturally a calm baby. (He takes after his mommy on that one.) So our little guy stayed in the nursery, mostly hooked to wires under that silly tent, until after 5 that evening. When he did finally come to us, he had a whole slew of family and friends waiting to see him! That afternoon, before the baby was freed, Eric and I discussed names. We had searched our minds and memories, scoured more than half a dozen baby books, and fielded countless suggestions during the previous nine long months. Girls names were easy; we had plenty of those. But since the ultrasound at 20 weeks gestation, we had been expecting a boy. (Really from the moment we decided to have a third child.) We had two near-perfect daughters and needed to round out the picture! Mason, Gregory, Thomas. Nicholas, Niko, Brian. The girls liked Jackson. So did we, but it’s become a little trendy. But it sounds good. Jackson Eric Dollar. It wasn’t daddy’s first choice (Gregory), but he didn’t feel right putting it off any longer! We had a winner! And at 8:00 PM, at one day old, we got to take him home.
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