Since my baby is now almost four months old, I figure I may as well write down my birth story! My pregnancy was a little complicated from the start. To begin with, it was completely unexpected. I had a miscarriage last year at around 9 weeks in the late summer, and had retained tissue, so there was a 5-month war as I tried unsuccessfully to avoid a D&C. Unfortunately I did have to have the D&C after all in December after which I went to the Caribbean with my husband to try to clear our minds and relax. When we came back from the Caribbean, I never got my period back and had some minor cramps in my uterus. I feared I had scarring from the D&C. I went to the doctor and insisted that they ultrasound me to locate scar tissue. They did so, and said, "Well, there's something in there. But it's not scarring....." I was pregnant again! At my 20 week ultrasound, the doctors identified a velamentous cord insertion, which they shrugged off as no big deal. It was something that could possibly cause growth restriction (although they hadn't seen it cause that in their practice so far), so we would have monthly growth ultrasounds, and they advised me not to google it if I didn't want to get unreasonably worried. I agreed readily and was googling it on my smart phone before I left the building. Obviously. So basically this means that the umbilical cord, instead of connecting to the placenta in the middle, wanders through the amniotic membrane before connecting to the placenta. And according to the internet, babies DIE from this horribly! Just like they do from every condition any expectant mother has ever googled, sigh. I demanded a consult with a high-risk maternal fetal medicine specialist/perinatologist, which they provided. Long story short, the perinatologist cautioned me that most cases of velamentous cord insertion are simply diagnosed after birth and never cause any problem. He said that the condition was dangerous largely if there was vasa previa (not placenta previa) as well as a velamentous insertion, and that he saw a case a week of VCI, and that about once a year did it ever need any follow up. We had more scans, and after those high-level ultrasounds, we found out it was possible that it was velamentous, or possible that it was just marginal (meaning it just connected to the placenta on the side instead of in the center). I ate a TON of protein to make sure she kept growing—like 100g per day (not easy for a vegetarian!). Her size kept measuring between the 50th and 55th percentile on the growth scans, so that was good. All the doctors felt that given the cord insertion was high up away from the birth canal, that I was fine to have a vaginal delivery, at least to try one, and if she wasn't handling the contractions well, we could always have a c-section in moments. I started having contractions increasingly and at my 40 week appointment I was dilated to about 2.5 cm and was about 70% effaced. Nothing happened. My mother flew in from Colorado when I was 40+4. Well, the good news about the baby being late was that at least I'd hopefully have my mom with me during labor! That was actually nice; we got a few days alone together (I was already off work, but my husband wasn't) and got to go on walks, etc. By this time of the year it was cool and rainy, and I spent a lot of time sitting on my porch and gazing out at my neighborhood. At 40 weeks 6 days (a Friday) I had another appointment at 3pm at my OB's office, which is in the same complex as the hospital I gave birth at. They measured me again; I was now 3cm dilated, but still only 70% effaced. Happily, the baby had been locked and loaded (engaged) for weeks, but still showed no interest in making her appearance. I expressed concern about going past dates since her cord condition made it possible that some of the cord was unprotected by the wharton's jelly meaning it may be more susceptible to compression. My OB said we would do an amniotic fluid measurement and a nonstress test, and if she passed both, we would wait until my scheduled induction date, Monday (I would've been 41+2). Otherwise, we could go tonight. She passed the nonstress test with no problem, but the amniotic fluid measurement (which took FOREVER to get, like hours, since by this time it was after hours on a Friday) resulted in a measurement of 5.2cm of fluid. The lowest comfortable level within normal range was 5cm, so technically she was still in range. The perinatologist was consulted and said we could wait til Monday, but my OB (knowing how anxious I got) called and said we could choose to go "tonight" if I wanted. By this time we had been at the hospital for nearly 6 hours, so long did it take me to get the fluid measurement and have it reviewed. Without a hesitation I said, "Let's go tonight." My husband agreed, knowing how nervous I was about things. I went home to shave my legs and grab my hospital bag as well as have a bite to eat. I was nervous as hell. I ate my favorite comfort food, broccoli cheddar rice-a-roni, and didn't taste a bite. We called our doula to tell her what was happening and I checked into the hospital with my mother and my husband around 10:30pm to be induced after a bit of wandering around as we had parked in a weird place….we were let in by a nurse who ended up being the attending nurse for me! We actually had a HUGE room, with a full-sized couch for someone to sleep on and plenty of room for an additional bed, and they told us that we could stay in it for the duration--even for the 48 hours I would be staying after I delivered (they had some kind of recovery room shortage). They started the pitocin drip around midnight and we all settled down to rest. We had brought the full set of Harry Potter movies and my computer, but then realized that the movies were on Blu-Ray but my computer can’t play those! Doh! I was dead-set on watching it so we bought it on iTunes and watched some of it, though we didn’t get far into it before my husband and mom fell asleep. I started to feel contractions, but they were very tolerable. I kept asking if I was "in labor" and the nurse kept telling me no, I wasn't really, not yet . I rested, although the nurse, who had a thick Southern accent, kept coming in to check things out, so I couldn’t really sleep. I was chugging water and my mom and husband were both sleeping. He said he had felt conflicted about sleeping and didn’t want to leave me awake alone, but knew that he gets really sleepy and he was already tired as it was the end of the work week. Therefore, he decided it would be better to sleep then so he could be fully “present” for the birth itself. Around 5am, I got up to pee and wheeled the IV to the bathroom in the room with the nurse's help. I peed, but something strange happened. I can't even explain it...it felt like something "lowered" for me inside. I got up and the pee in the toilet looked strange. Cloudy and sort of off-color. "Something weird happened," I articulately said to the nurse. She looked in the toilet and said, "I bet your water broke. Yup, it sure did!" She said that the fluid had a little bit of “thin meconium” in it, but she said this was unlikely to be an issue. Of course, I was still a bit nervous, but had heard of this happening to quite a few people, especially when the baby was overdue. After that, "shit got real." The contractions were immediately much more painful. My mom and husband woke up and we decided to call our doula, Kate, to come over, which she did. When she got there, my mom left to check on our dog (we live only 5 minutes from the hospital) and my husband decided to lay down to sleep more so he would be more alert for the later parts of the labor, which could be hours and hours away. The contractions got quite painful....I likened them to a full-body ice cream headache. I didn't make a noise during them.....just dropped my head down and closed my eyes and weathered the storm. Kate encouraged me to try other positions and at one point I got on a birthing ball, but I really just wanted to sit in the bed. For some reason it really bothered me that amniotic fluid kept coming out of me, even though I knew to expect it. I labored with my mom and Kate while my husband slept, and felt good that I was surrounded by women, particularly women who had gone through childbirth before. I commented that it was "women's work." Because of the cord condition, I felt very nervous about my baby's ability to tolerate the contractions, and kept asking the nurses how she was responding as she was, of course, monitored the whole time. They kept reassuring me that she was doing fine. One weird thing about this was that I really couldn't tolerate the smell of my mom's coffee, something I typically love. Around 8:30am I no longer had any interest in going without pain meds and we ordered the epidural. My husband got up around this time. By this time I was very, very tired. I felt like I was about to drop from fatigue but there was no way I would be able to sleep with the contractions the way they were. I didn’t react to the pain of the epidural. My husband said that the difference was immediate. He said that I said, “I think it’s working….” but to him it was obvious I was. He said that after I got the epidural, for the first time in hours, I rose my head and opened my eyes. I could still feel the contractions and it felt like a lot of pressure. I observed, "I would've said this was quite painful had I not felt the actual pain of the contractions before." They checked me and I was now 4cm dilated--I had only dilated 1 cm in the 8.5 hours I had been there (and the 3.5 hours I had been going through all that painful labor)! I no longer felt overwhelming exhaustion but was still tired, and now that the epidural was in, I could finally sleep. While I slept, my mom drove back to our place to take our pup to her boarding place/doggy daycare, Kate went to get breakfast and got my husband the kind of sugary "coffee" drink he likes. He couldn't fall back to sleep, so he just stayed there awake as I slept. He said, “I was wondering how long things would take and for your sake, was hoping things would progress quickly. At that point we had known so many people who had had 30+ hour labors and was hoping things would move along. I was anticipating meeting the baby, eager to meet her and going through my camera’s memory card, making sure I would have plenty of room to take lots of pictures.” An hour after getting the epidural (at which point I had been only 4cm dilated) the nurse, Sian, came in and woke me up to check me, and I mentioned, “my cervix is over towards the right side,” and she said, “No, it’s not! You don’t have a cervix anymore. You’re fully dilated.” They decided they were going to let me “labor down” for an hour or so, in other words, not pushing until I felt that I needed to. I never felt that I needed to! The epidural must’ve dulled those nerve sensations for me. My doctor came in while I was laboring down. My own doctor, Nancy Grant, was sadly not on call, and our baby would be delivered by a colleague in her practice, Dr. Anika Denali Luengo. Luckily we had previously met her and liked her. About an hour into the laboring down, Sian came in and explained that while she was in the bathroom, the monitor (which kept track of the baby’s heartrate) had slipped or perhaps baby had moved, so it was not displaying a heartbeat. She just needed to move it. This had happened multiple times before and typically she would move it and would strap it on after finding it in seconds. She moved it, and didn’t initially find the heartbeat. Then moved it again, and still couldn’t find it. And still couldn’t find it. I started panicking….saying, “Sian? Sian? It’s OK, right, Sian?” Initially everyone but me was calm, but as time went on and she still couldn’t find it, everyone else started panicking as well. The nurse said, “I too am concerned so I’m going to get someone in here,” and called for a doctor. Everyone began crying at that point--myself, my husband, my mother, even the nurse! You know things are bad when the nurse starts crying! Kate alone remained calm. I remember looking at her face and she was just calmly nodding. All of a sudden, the nurse found the heartbeat--the best sound in the world--at which point everyone’s emotions really broke free. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t the only one crying. I said in wonderment, “Everyone was scared….not just me. Even you were scared, Sian,” and she said, “That’s like my worst nightmare as a nurse.” The heartbeat couldn’t be found easily because by this time, the baby was REALLY low in the birth canal. They suggested that we could put a wire, called a fetal scalp electrode, into her scalp to be sure we wouldn’t lose the heartbeat again. Even though the moment had been very scary, actually probably the worst moment of my life, I didn’t want my baby to have a wire placed in her scalp. So I rejected the idea. Well that all changed when we lost the heartbeat a second time moments later. Again it took awhile to find, though we weren’t scared this time because of what we had just been through (OK, I still found it a little unsettling!). Nevertheless, this changed everyone’s perspective on the fetal scalp electrode and they did insert it. They suggested I may be ready to push at this point. For some reason I wasn’t wanting that and asked to labor down a little more. After another 30 minutes or so, I got into position to push. My husband said that they could see almost immediately during each push. He said he felt amazed--that he was thinking, “That’s my baby, she’s so close!” He felt very excited. Initially Sian was positioned low down ready to “catch,” Kate and my husband each held one of my knees, and my mom was coaching me through contractions up by my head. Again I felt quite a lot of pressure with each! I remember during some of the contractions I considered lying and not telling them I was having them, so I wouldn’t have to do the hard work of pushing. Like everyone, I’d heard stories of women pooping during labor and for some reason was worried about this happening, even though, obviously, it’s par for the course for the maternity staff. When you push in labor, you engage the exact same muscles and it was hard for me to just push without holding the “poop” back (apologies to my daughter for comparing her to poop). To add to this, I suspected my birth partners of trickery. You see, one of our friends had had a really long, drawn out labor a couple years previously. After their son was born, her husband told us his side of the birth. He said that the midwife and nurses would tell her after each push that she was “doing great, making a lot of progress.” But he was there watching and knew this was not so, and said to us, “I can remember watching and thinking, they’re lying to her! “ During my labor, they put a mirror down near my feet so I could watch the progress I was making. Of course, I couldn’t look while I was pushing, because my eyes were closed as I strained to push through each contraction. So I could only look in between. Apparently, the baby’s head would come out a very small amount more each time, but in between pushes she would kind of sink back in. It was clear to my husband, Kate and the nurse that her head was emerging more and more each time, and they excitedly told me that I was doing great and that she was coming. But all I could see was that no progress seemed to be made at all! I remembered our friend’s story and thought, “Oh my god, it’s like Jesse said. They’re lying to me!” Nevertheless, my husband’s excitement was fun to see. His eyes were shining as he thought, “This is really happening, she’s on her way!” He said that he felt proud of me, that I was “doing a good job” at pushing our baby out. After awhile I had made sufficient progress and Dr. Denali came in. She helped me continue to push and after I had been pushing for almost an hour, she called a medical team from the NICU in who would be set up and ready to suction the baby’s lungs after she was born if needed, since meconium was present in her amniotic fluid. I had been warned that they would be present as a precaution in case the baby had any problems after the birth, so I expected to see them, and seeing them set up was a sign to me that I was close to giving birth. Dr. Denali said that I was very close, and I could continue pushing instead of waiting for the next contraction. At that point, I surrendered to the poop fears (as it happened, I never did poop during labor!) and just gave one mighty, prolonged push. All of a sudden everyone started saying “Here she comes!” and they whipped this naked baby body out, and as she started crying they toweled her off and threw her on my chest! It all happened in one swift movement. Emilia Rose was born! My husband was overcome with emotion. He thought, “Oh my god, that’s my baby!” Neither of us can remember what we did in the immediate aftermath--whether he hugged her or me, or what. It’s all a blur. I know that they delivered the placenta and gave me something like three stitches (I didn’t feel any of that, except I vaguely remember feeling kind of annoyed that they were troubling me to ask me to push the placenta out). I also remember they showed me the placenta and the cord insertion. Later I asked Kate what she had thought when they pulled her out. She said, “My first thought was, ‘Oh my god...she’s HUGE!’ “ Emilia was 9lbs 7oz. In other words, those growth ultrasounds were an absolute joke! We found out that her umbilical cord was marginal after all, not velamentous. Her APGAR scores were 8 and 9 at one minute and five minutes, respectively. As she lay on my chest, they delayed clamping the cord for a long time as it continued to pump. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I didn't feel the elation that people often describe when meeting their child--I felt relieved and happy to be holding her, but not elated--more like stunned. Yet it felt like I had always known her. It felt like it was the same baby I had been holding in my stomach, only now on top of me instead of inside me. Of course that is exactly the case, but it's strange how natural it felt. I kissed her head over and over and she curled her tiny hand around my thumb. After we got a good amount of skin-to-skin time, my husband--her dad!!--took her to be weighed. He then took her to the sink in the room to give her a bath. He has never been comfortable holding babies, so it surprised me how hands-on and confident he was with her the second he met her. He described it as feeling “weird and natural, all at the same time.” She is now almost four months old, and every day she is a different, new person. In the last three weeks alone she has started laughing, playing with her feet, and vocalizing ten times more than she ever did before. In meeting her, I have met a bunch of new people--my daughter, myself as a mother, my husband as a father, our parents as first-time grandparents, our siblings as aunts and uncles, and so forth. It has been both exactly what I expected it to be like and nothing like what I expected it to be like. It’s been the best experience of my life.