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Ashley Lyn: A Birth Story

My Birth StoryWhile I was pregnant, I read a lot of birth stories. Each story is beautiful and unique, but some are more compelling, from a literary standpoint, than others. After a two-month hiatus from this blog during my maternity (semi) leave, I thought the most logical way to come back is with Ashley Lyn’s birth story. I don’t know if my story is worth telling, but I’ll try. Would it catch your attention if I told you that, after 45 hours of labor, my daughter was nearly born in an elevator?

When people ask how long I was in labor, the answer varies.

– 45 hours of labor in Stony Brook University Hospital’s antenatal unit;
– Three weeks of painful but unproductive Braxton-Hicks contractions;
– Six-and-a-half minutes of hard labor in the delivery room.

My husband reminds me that I spent another five minutes or so of hard labor in the elevator, trying not to push. But the story begins at 1 AM on Saturday, October 11, 2008.

Because of my gestational diabetes, the doctors advised inducing labor as early as 38 weeks. For two weeks and 10 days, I fought for my right to a natural childbirth, all the while fielding endless questions from well-meaning family, friends and associates. “You haven’t had that baby yet?”

I didn’t want Pitocin because I’d heard about causal links to post-partum depression, and I also heard that most people who use Pitocin need an epidural because of the intensity of the contractions. Pitocin also increases the odds of an emergency c-section birth. I felt very strongly about a 100 percent natural, drug-free childbirth. But this baby was not cooperating.

By October 5, my away message for the various chat platforms had a profane message letting people know there was NO BABY YET. Tired of the questions and the painful false labor, I made an appointment on Thursday, October 9 to be induced, but canceled at the last minute with a bad feeling.

On Saturday morning, my water broke. The midwife didn’t want to see us until Saturday at 1 PM. They would have sent me home to labor in comfort at that point, but the baby failed the “breathing” test during the ultrasound. Babies don’t actually breathe in the womb, but they practice. During the ultrasound, the doctor looked for this and other activities to gauge the baby’s well-being. As a precaution, they checked me into the hospital and began the first dose of Cervadil to jumpstart labor, because I wasn’t showing any dilation.

The next 12 hours went by slowly, with frequent but sporadic contractions that were no more painful than those I’d been feeling for the past three weeks. I read a book, wrote thank you cards, tried to nap, watched the Baby Channel…and talked to my daughter.

I offered a tear-filled soliloquy as I sat in a chair and stared out the window to the hospital parking garage below. I promised her we were ready for her, and asked her to please come now. I remember saying that I had no idea what to do with a baby, but that we would learn together.

I told her I couldn’t promise we’d do everything right. The only thing we could promise was to love her very, very much. I told her how long we had been waiting for her and that we couldn’t wait to meet her.

I watched shift after shift of nurses come and go. One of my favorites wrote a to-do list on the whiteboard in front of my bed. It contained only one item: “Meet Ashley Lyn!”

After the first dose, I had a four-hour break. I didn’t have any contractions during this time, which meant labor hadn’t kicked in naturally. At the end of four hours, the midwife checked my progress to decide if we needed another dose of Cervadil or if we could move on to Pitocin. She reported with great disappointment that I was “maybe half a centimeter dilated…really nothing to speak of.”

She inserted the second dose of Cervadil and I napped for an hour until I could eat my liquid meal. After three cups of tea, some beef bouillon and strawberry Jello, I had an intense contraction. Leaning forward in bed, I squeezed my husband’s hand and screamed.

Subsequent contractions went back to the mild variety, and there was still no consistent pattern. Even after all the reading I’d done and my childbirth classes, I didn’t recognize that this was the transition phase. After all, just an hour ago I was at zero centimeters!

The contractions gradually worsened, but they never reached an unbearable point. I was more impatient and exhausted than in pain. I requested a c-section because I felt like I was going to be in this early labor state forever. The midwife told me I couldn’t have a c-section unless I ran a fever or the baby showed distress. I didn’t want it to get to that point, but it seemed I had no choice but to endure endless waiting..

You know how they say you’ll recognize real labor when it happens? That wasn’t the case at all for me. Around 9 PM on Sunday, mid-way through the second dose of Cervadil, I felt like I had to go to the bathroom. I learned in childbirth class that this feeling means you are ready to push. But that couldn’t be it. After all, I wasn’t in real labor and I was nowhere near fully dilated. Right?

I told the nurse “I won’t be able to concentrate on having this baby until I can go to the bathroom…” and I requested a stool softener. It didn’t work, but I still felt intense, uncomfortable pressure.

The nurse didn’t immediately relate the feeling I was describing to hard labor, either, but after a few minutes, she said she was going to get the midwife to check me, “just to make sure.” No one was in any hurry. I couldn’t possibly have dilated that much, that quickly. Right?

It was quite a while before the midwife walked in, smiling. She apologized for the delay and said she was with another patient. Neither of us imagined I was ready to have the baby. The midwife put a gloved hand inside me and her eyes got wide. “Oh. My. Goodness! You’re fully dilated!” she said. “Let’s go!”

Orderlies grabbed the bed and jetted me into the hallway, my IV trailing behind like a poorly-trained puppy on a leash. It was like a hospital TV drama, everything moving rapidly, but events unfolding as if in slow motion.

The nurse stayed near the head of the bed imploring me NOT to push. I didn’t remember learning that in childbirth class and asked, “How?” The nurse told me to exhale in short, quick puffs. I remember thinking the IV was going to get ripped from my hand.  My husband grabbed all our important belongings and followed behind the bed, but I lost sight of him in the confusion. I remember yelling, “Watch my IV! Where’s my husband?” over and over again.

Crammed in the elevator, my husband found a spot by my side. After 45 hours of trying to get this baby out of me, I was now trying desperately to keep her inside for just a few more minutes!

The four-floor trip to the delivery room seemed to last forever. As they pushed the bed through the door I asked the midwife, “Now can I push??” I sighed when she requested that I move over to the delivery bed, but I did it and then began pushing immediately. In less than two minutes the baby’s head crowned, and after several more pushes, we had a beautiful baby girl. It was 10:04 PM on October 12, 2008.

The midwife laid Ashley on my chest right away, but my hospital gown prevented skin-to-skin contact. We tried to pull the gown off, with no success. The midwife wanted to cut the gown off and asked around for a scissor. My husband offered up his Leatherman multi-tool. “It’s not sterile,” he said.

“That’s fine,” the midwife said, cutting away the gown to lay my daughter on my chest. I remember laughing and telling Ashley, “See? Daddy’s got his Leatherman already. He can fix anything with that!”

My reaction to finally meeting my daughter, who weighed 6 lbs. 4 oz. and was 19.5” long, was not as I imagined. I did not cry, which I always thought I would. I think I was simply overwhelmed that she was finally here and yes, I fell in love immediately.

The next few days were marked by lots and lots of diapers, crying, breastfeeding struggles and more crying. I will chronicle these stories, and more, for you over the next few months, as I share Ashley’s life with Babies Online readers.

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