Birth of Liliya
by Lou Anne & Max K
At 41 weeks and 5 days and expecting to begin an induction the following Monday night, my husband (Max) suggested that I try the breast pump one last time around 11 pm on Sunday. I thought I might as well give it a last shot. I pumped for about an hour, 30 minutes on each side, and felt some mild contractions throughout, same as the previous times I’d tried pumping in the last week. At around midnight, I put the pump away and got ready for bed. The mild contractions continued. I tried very hard not to get my hopes up at that point, but I was starting to wonder if this could finally be it. I forced myself to go to sleep on the couch, where I’d been sleeping for the past couple of months. But I kept being awakened about every 10 minutes by contractions. I wouldn’t describe them as painful, but they were more significant than any I’d felt before.
I continued to try to sleep, but kept waking up about every 10 minutes. I checked the clock regularly and noted how often I was waking up. Around 2 am, when I could no longer lie comfortably through a contraction, I woke Max up to tell him that I thought I was in labor. He moved to the couch with me and slept on and off for a couple of hours. I turned on the TV and watched a few episodes of Arrested Development, a show I’d just begun watching on Netflix that day. The contractions kept coming, getting stronger and closer together. At some point, I woke Max up because I knew I needed help dealing with the pain. He helped me labor on the birth ball and move around, trying different positions to help with the pain. I was so exhausted, all I wanted to do was sleep, but my contractions would not allow it. At this point, they were coming every 5 minutes or so, and they were pretty intense.
Around 6:30 am, Max called our doula, Lorie. She gave us some more ideas to deal with the pain and told us to keep her informed. Max set up lots of pillows on the bed and put the birth ball up there so I could lean on it during contractions. He rubbed my back and supported me through the pain. He kept telling me how well I was doing, which was an incredible boost to my confidence and pain tolerance. I also got into the tub which was very comforting, and then took a hot shower. Max kept trying to get me to eat some crackers or pecans, and to drink some water. I was not much in the mood to eat anything, but I knew I would need strength so I tried to eat.
We continued to labor through the morning. Max called my parents to let them know. They were planning to come up that afternoon anyway for the induction, so their plans didn’t change, but their excitement level certainly did. The whole time I was laboring, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy that my body was finally going into labor on its own, and I wasn’t going to need an induction. After waiting nearly 2 weeks past my due date, I could hardly believe it. I continued to have contractions that were getting longer, stronger, and closer together. With Max’s help, I continued to move around and try different positions. I got back into the tub around mid-morning, and my contractions slowed a bit and allowed me to get a minute or two of sleep between them. After I’d been in the tub around 30 minutes, we decided to try getting back on the bed with the birth ball, so Max set it up for me.
Around 1:00 pm, as soon as I got out of the tub, I got some extremely intense contractions very close together, around 2 minutes apart and lasting about a minute each. Max had texted Lorie and asked her to come on out to our house. But when those contractions came on so fast and hard all of a sudden, we decided we were ready to head to the hospital. Max got all of our stuff into the car, and helped me get settled for the drive. My contractions slowed a bit on the way to the hospital, coming about every 4-5 minutes. Max called Lorie on the way there, to let her know she needed to head to the hospital instead of our house.
Max pulled up to the emergency entrance, and went in to get me a wheelchair. As soon as he got the wheelchair around to my door, I had another contraction and had to wait it out in the car. Then Max got me into the wheelchair and wheeled me into the emergency room. While the clerk was getting me registered, Max went to park the car. She got my wristband on and took my ID and insurance card. A few minutes later, Max returned and shortly thereafter, Lorie appeared. I was still using my iPhone app to time contractions, and Lorie reminded me that I didn’t need to do that anymore.
The three of us followed a hospital employee through the hospital to labor and delivery, where they directed me to triage. First I had to give them a urine sample. I was left alone in the restroom for a few minutes and managed to get urine into the cup, clean myself off, and wash my hands. I was then directed to a triage room with a hospital bed, and told to get on the bed and put on a hospital gown. I had brought my own gown, though, so I put that on instead. We also gave the nurse a copy of our birth plan. The nurse checked me and told me I was 5 cm dilated and 100% effaced. I was honestly a bit disappointed that I was only 5 cm, but I was glad to have made it that far on our own at home. While in triage, the nurse also put in a saline lock. She tried my hand first but was unsuccessful, which was quite painful. I was of course still having very intense contractions very close together, and lying on that hospital bed was particularly excruciating. I thought I would never get out of there.
Around 2:30, when we were finally done with triage, they directed me to my room, which fortunately had a tub. I had a few contractions on the birth ball in the room, and my parents and sister came into the room so that my dad could pray for me and baby Liliya. After they left, I got into the tub. I sat on my bottom for a while, but that got to be too painful, so Lorie suggested I kneel on my knees and lean my body on the side of the tub. That proved to be very comforting and also very effective at moving things along. After a while, I starting feeling the urge to push, but I could ignore it. I told Lorie, and I decided I’d like to be checked, to see if I’d made progress since I’d arrived. The nurse checked me and told me I was 8 cm. Yes! I felt good about that progress, but I was still feeling the urge to push so I was hoping for more. After that, I stood next to the bed and leaned on the squat bar, with Max supporting me, rubbing my back, or applying counter-pressure on my hips for some relief. He was, again, incredibly encouraging and helpful. At this point, I felt like I’d lost the ability to speak, but I felt so grateful to Max and Lorie for helping me cope with the pain. It seemed that Lorie could read my mind and sense how I was feeling, which was a huge comfort and help. She reminded me to breathe slowly and relax my shoulders and she directed me to grunt with my gut instead of whine, which helped me maintain a sense of control. I also labored some on the toilet, leaning over onto Max. I’d had intermittent monitoring since we’d arrived at the hospital, but at this point, the nurse told me she needed to leave the monitors on because the baby’s heart rate was dropping with each contraction. She assured me that this was normal, but they needed to make sure her heart rate did not drop at any other time. The monitors were very annoying to me, as one was placed very low to get her heart rate, which was right where the most intense pain was.
After a while, I wanted to be checked again because that urge to push was getting much stronger. The nurse checked me and told me I still had a “lip” remaining, but that I should “bear down” if I felt the urge. I wasn’t sure how that was different from pushing, but I didn’t complain. I tried squatting on the bed using the bar a couple of times, but I didn’t like having to adjust positions between contractions, and squatting was tiring on my legs. I believe the nurse suggested I sit on the bed and use the squat bar to prop up my feet and push that way. The bed was raised, so I wasn’t on my back, and that position felt the most comfortable, so I stayed there. The doctor came in and checked me. He noted the lip, but told me I should be able to push through it. At that point, I really started pushing with each contraction. The doctor cleaned me off and massaged my perineum. My water still had not broken. I pushed every few minutes for around an hour and Liliya arrived at 6:55 pm. The bag of water stayed intact nearly until the end. Liliya cried soon after she was born, and they immediately laid her on my chest. She was covered in vernix, which was surprising since that usually occurs in pre-term babies. I remember the tug of the umbilical cord still attached, and then the doctor cutting it. I also remember the doctor showing me my placenta, and sewing up my 2nd degree tear. But mostly I remember my sweet daughter on my chest, crying, and an overwhelming, all-encompassing sense of love and empowerment that I’d never felt before.