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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Harper Geneva Armstrong's Birth Story - September 21st, 2013

*This post is EXTREMELY long.  Like, mini-book long.  I want to remember everything.*

Well, as I type this, Harper is peacefully sleeping in her bassinet, to my right, and Tom is off at the gym.  I am freshly showered and am feeling good!  I'm sure there will be lows, but I'm going to revel in this high and take this opportunity to write this post.  [Note: I didn't finish this post til more than 24 hours later.]

So, it happened!  We had a baby!  It didn't matter how much I thought about it while I was pregnant, I just couldn't get myself to comprehend that there was a little baby inside of me.  Now, she's here laying in front of me and I still can't believe she exist.  WHAT IN THE WORLD???  How is it possible that people do this all the time?  It really blows my mind and I don't see how it will ever stop doing so.

I have so many things to say, but I'm trying to not get ahead of myself.  I'll begin with my last Dr's appt., which was last Wednesday (the 18th).  At the previous appt. I had been showing some signs of pre-eclampsia.  Most Dr.'s would just induce a woman with pre-e signs who was past 38 weeks, but my midwife knew I didn't want to be induced, so she left the choice to me.  We decided I'd get some more testing done at the hospital (to see how baby was doing), keep my feet elevated A LOT, drink lots of water and keep to a low sodium diet.  Since I went in for testing and the baby was fine and since my swelling really went down after sticking to her orders, I was really hoping my pre-e symptoms would also have lessened by my next appt.  Alas, they hadn't, so we had the induction talk again. She still left it up to me, but let me know she was more worried.  I went home, Tom came home, I researched, we talked, he gave me a blessing and we decided induction as soon as my midwife suggested was the right thing to do.  So, we scheduled at induction for Friday, the 20th at 7:30 am (4 days post due date).  

It was immediately so surreal.  I had been so ready and excited to have this baby for so long, and yet when I finally knew she was coming my brain had such a hard time processing it that I ALMOST wasn't even excited.  Anyway, I spent the next couple days doing final preparations.  I cleaned the house, packed bags, made zucchini bread for the nurses, etc. etc.  As a last hurrah, Tom and I headed to the movies Thurs. night and saw, "The Butler."  It was actually really good - you should go see it.  I hadn't slept much at all the two night previously, but by some miracle I slept great that night.

Bright and early the next morning we got up, got ready and headed out the door.  Before we left I took one last pregnancy photo.

40 weeks + 4 days
And Tom made a video of our house and how it looked in its last moments pre-baby:

We got to the hospital, checked in and were shown to our room.  I was the ONLY patient in the whole labor and delivery ward, so I got plenty of care.  They immediately started getting me ready - asking me questions, sticking IVs in me, putting monitors on my belly, etc.  Shortly after we first got there, when we were still checking out the room, Tom took this video so that we'd remember what it looked like.  As you can see, it was a really big room!

We didn't really take any photos in between getting there and me pushing, it turns out.  Anyway, pretty soon my midwife arrived, I was checked (2 cm, 50% effaced and about the same as at my last appt.).  At 9am I took my first bit of Cytotec.  It's a piece of a pill that you put between your lip and gums, that then dissolves.  It is supposed to ripen your cervix so that you either go into full blown labor or are more prepared to be put on a Pitocin drip.  You take the pills every 4 hours and up to 3 times.  Toward the end of the first 4 hour period (about 1 pm) my contractions were about 5 min. apart but were not really painful.  As in, they were mild enough that I couldn't even tell whether they were all in my head or not.  Also, I'll say right now that the lame thing about being on Cytotec is that they are more concerned about monitoring your baby.  So, even though I wasn't hooked to IVs, I had to be hooked to monitors.  I could get out of bed, but could only go as far as the cords would reach.  Occasionally they would unhook me so I could go to the restroom or go on a walk.  I wish I could have gone on more walks because I feel like they really helped my contractions come regularly.  (As a side note, Tom just walked in from the gym.  He threw out his back on one of the machines and is now an invalid, lying on the floor on a heating pad.  Tables have turned.  Now I'm taking care of two people.  Boo.  He tends to throw out his back at the most inconvenient of times, like a few days after we got married, when we were just a few days out from him taking the BAR and us moving to Taiwan.  Anyway, back to labor.)

By the end of the 2nd round of Cytotec my contractions were 2 min apart, I was dilated to a 3 and I was 60% effaced.  Things were moving slowly, but at least things were moving.  Also, I still wasn't in much pain.  I was definitely feeling contractions, but they were easy to handle and I could walk and talk during them.  With the end of the 2nd Cytotec round, they decided to let me walk around and see if my labor would continue to progress on its own.  So, from about 5:15pm to 9pm I only had to be attached to the monitor a little bit and I got to walk around a bunch.  It was during this time that Tom's parents came and we all walked (or wheeled, in the case of my MIL) around the hospital.  I think it was pretty good timing for them to come too, because my pain was enough so that a distraction was nice, but not so bad that I couldn't interact.  Unfortunately, since I wasn't really progressing a whole lot on my own, we decided I should go on Pitocin. That meant I had to be hooked up to an IV.

Pretty shortly after starting Pitcoin my contractions started to get worse. At first, I was still able to handle them pretty well, but it was hard and I had to focus on my breathing and a focal point while I was having a contraction. Since they were two minutes apart I didn't have much of a break in between, and by this time, I couldn't talk during the contractions. When they first started me on Pitocin I was in bed, soon I got out and sat on a chair and that felt much better. At this point I was in a nice zone. Soon my contractions started to be irregular and a little farther apart. It was as if the more relaxed I was, the less progress I made.  Such an impossible situation.  Because of this, I decided to try some different positions.  Let's just say the different positions definitely worked to get me to stop relaxing!  While I was trying different positions, the contractions were MUCH more difficult to handle.  I was nearly losing it during each one.  At one point, I remember being on my hands and knees and just writhing in pain and not knowing what to do and kind of panicking.

I decided at that point that if I hadn't made any progress the next time I was checked that I was ready for an epidural, but that if I had I would find a way.  I also decided it was time to go back to the chair.  While I was in the process of getting off the floor, though, I had a contraction right when I was on my knees, with my upper body leaning against the bed.  Basically, I was in prayer position.  And, being in that position, it only seemed natural to pray!  So I did.  By the time I got back into the chair, I was completely exhausted.  I was so exhausted, in fact, that during the next contraction I couldn't help but just let gooo.  I don't know how else to explain it.  Like, when I was on my hands and knees in such pain, I kept trying to escape it.  So, I was moving and wincing and moaning and so forth.  But once I was on the chair, I was so exhausted I couldn't to that anymore.  All I could do was breath very subdued deep breaths (like when your sleeping or very relaxed) and say to myself, "Whatever.  It's fine.  You're fine."  And magically, even though the contractions were just as painful I was not suffering as much.  Does that make any sense?  Like, pain is a physical constant, but suffering is controlled by your brain.  It has to do with how your brain perceives the pain.  And somehow, breathing calmly and speaking to myself calmly and not allowing the contraction to be a big deal made it less of a big deal.  I was even able to talk through some of the contractions at this point, even though they were just as intense.

Tom and I had a really deep, meaningful conversation about all these thoughts right then and it was such a beautiful moment.  Tom, by the way, was SO amazing this whole time.  I had hoped, in the weeks preceding labor, that the experience would be good for our relationship and bring us even closer together and it really was.  He was so anxious to do anything he could to help me and we both had such affection for each other throughout the whole process.  He's such a sweet husband.  I remember that when we first got there, long before I really needed anything, he was so anxious to help.  I kept trying to get him to just nap or entertain himself, but he was too intent on doing something to make life easier for me.  Then, as the night wore on, he became so emotional a few times that he started to cry.  Also, I just want to throw in that I wasn't supposed to be eating the whole time I was there, but I had Tom feeding me snacks when they weren't in the room and I'm SO glad I did!  First of, not eating during labor is not an evidence based practice and makes no sense.  In fact, studies have shown that when a woman eats during labor, her labor is an average of 90 min. shorter!  Plus, I know myself and that I do NOT do well without food.

But, at this point, my wonderful midwife came in and managed to convince him to nap and assured him that she'd be there if I needed anything.  So, he napped on the pull-out chair, I sat on the edge of the rocking chair, my midwife sat close-by and I calmly labored through contraction after contraction.  At one point my midwife had to leave the room for a few minutes and somehow I became even more calm.  I was really in a zone.  I think it also helped that I had made a really great playlist that was perfect for just calmly breathing through contractions.  Also, I always had a focal point that I would stare at during contractions.  Earlier it had been the light switch, then the hand sanitizer, and at this point it was the seconds hand on the clock.

Sometime shortly after the prayer episode, the midwife checked me again, and I was so happy to find that I was 5 or 6 cm dilated and 80% effaced!  Finally, I had made some significant progress!  I definitely felt like I could continue when I found that out.  I was even able to stay in the zone while she checked me and afterward.  I continued on like this for hours and hours.  However, I got checked again a few hours later (Tom had been recording all the stats and times, but had abandoned it by this point) and was still about the same.

Finally, sometime around 6 or 6:30 am they decided to check me again.  By this time, it had been many hours since I had made any progress and I was starting to get exhausted.  Remember, my contractions were 2 minutes apart this whole time, which means about a minute or less of a break in between each.  Plus, usually they were pretty regular, but occasionally I would get a slightly longer break (maybe two minutes) followed by several back to-back contractions.  Those were the worst because I would be sooo exhausted by the end, but still would only get a minute of break before the next one came.  Anyway, so this time when they check me I was back to feeling like I needed to have made some progress if I was going to be able to continue.

Unfortunately, no progress had been made.  This was utterly demoralizing to hear and I started to lose hope of ever being able to make it.  It's one thing to feel like progress is inevitable and that all you have to do is keep going to get a little further, then a little further.  But, when you're putting in the hardest work of your life and not apparently getting anywhere at all and you don't have any idea how much longer you'll have to do it, it becomes really difficult to keep going.  At this point, I started considering an epidural much more seriously.  I also started to feel really panicky and weepy and just unable to keep going.  To top it off, my midwife wanted me to try different positions again to see if doing so could help me progress.  She also broke my water in hopes that that would spur something.  But, being in those other positions was almost impossible to bear.  I started feeling like I had earlier when I was on my hands and knees.  Perhaps there was something I could have done to stay in the zone while being in those positions, but I couldn't figure out how.

About this time I started really asking for the epidural.  My midwife tried to convince me that I could do it without one, which I actually really appreciate her doing, but I was DONE.  And once I decided that I wanted the epidural, it could NOT come fast enough.  I kept asking how soon the anesthesiologist would be able to get there and getting a little angry that it was taking so long.  Finally, he came and he gave it to me (which also hurt pretty bad).  But, it worked pretty quickly and after 22.5 hours of laboring naturally, I could relax.  And you know what?  Even though I really wanted to have the experience be as natural as possible, and instead I pretty much threw my birth plan out the window (induction, epidural, artificial rupture of membranes, etc. etc.), I don't regret anything at all.  I feel like at each step we made the decision that was right for the situation and I never felt forced to do anything either.

Once I got the epidural, I took the opportunity to relax.  Tom took a nap and I tried to.  I'm not sure how much I actually slept, but I rested.  I was SO exhausted.  Also, perhaps because they were able to turn the Pitocin up quicker, I started to progress faster than before.  I still wouldn't say I progressed quickly, but after 3.5 more hours, I was fully dilated and ready to push.  By this time, my brain was so overloaded and everything felt so surreal since I was painlessly and quickly progressing after having gone through so much effort only to get to a 6.  Because of this, it was really hard for me to feel much of anything about being so close to the end.  I mean, I was glad to be there, but I'm sure I would have feel much stronger about it had I still been in pain.

Anyway, pushing without being able to feel your lower extremities is bizarre.  Also, pushing is such a total body work-out!  The first time I pushed through a contraction I thought, "man, that was HARD!  There's no way I can sustain that kind of exertion for a long time!"  But, then I got over it and just did it and it went by so fast for how long I pushed.  I ended up pushing for an hour and a half and just had a small episiotomy and a couple small nicks.  I just had a couple friends who had a horrendous time pushing, so I was expecting much worse.  Also, I watched the whole thing through a mirror they brought in (I'm not squeamish), which really helped me to feel like I was making progress.

Right before I started pushing.  I love how I look like a crazy woman.  My midwife is on the right.
When she did finally come out (at 12:59 pm, after 28 hours of labor), it seemed so sudden!  Like, up until right then it seemed like she still had a ways to go, so I wasn't really prepared for her to suddenly have her head out and then, shortly thereafter, for the rest of her to slide out.  Also, my midwife was busy making sure she was coming out alright and pretty much blocked my view so I just remember seeing her lying below my feet all of a sudden.  Tom watched the whole thing though, and he's pretty squeamish and I think it traumatized him a bit.  Too bad our vantage points couldn't be switched!  

Anyway, earlier, when they broke my water, they found that there was meconium (baby poo) in it.  That's not really unusual for an overdue baby, but it can make it hard for the baby to start breathing when they come out.  She warned me of this and said that when she came out they may have to cut her cord right away (I had wanted them to wait to cut it until it stopped pulsing) and take her to the warming station to suction her mouth and rub her with towels until she breathed properly.  That's what ended up happening.  It would have been pretty traumatic, I think, to have her taken immediately and see people frantically working on her, except that my midwife prepared me for it and kept telling me she was fine and telling me what all they were doing and that they weren't worried and things like that.  I really appreciated that.  Also, I remember thinking that she looked really pretty from the second I saw her lying on the hospital bed (which I didn't expect at all, since I knew babies usually look pretty gross when they first come out).  I also remember that when I first heard her cry when they were working on her I thought it was a really cute cry, for some reason.  I remember I kept saying things like, "aw, she has such a cute cry!" and "good job honey!  You can do it!"  I just felt a lot of affection for her already.  While this was all happening, my placenta came out (6 minutes after she was born) and my midwife went to work on stitching me up.

After she was all suctioned and was moving around and pinking up, they brought her over to me.  I actually have a really hard time recalling what happened for the next little while though.  Like, I remember asking if I should breastfeed her and trying to do so.  But I remember she started to lose color again right after I started that and they took her again.  I also remember them having Tom go over to where she was and the midwife telling him to talk to her and that she would know his voice from when she was in the womb.  Then, I remember them weighing her and measuring her and thinking "they weren't supposed to do that til later, but oh well."  She was 6 lbs. 8 oz. and 19 in.  I remember saying she was little and them saying she wasn't and that she was a good size (though 6 lbs. 8 oz. is 14th percentile, so, you know, I was right...).  And honestly, that's all I remember.  I have no idea what really happened for the next little while.  Like, I remember that we ordered room service and that I was starving, but I don't even remember whether she was in the room or not or if either of us were holding her!  Is post-labor amnesia a thing???

This picture just makes me sad.  She looks so cold and lonely!

And this picture is just strange to me because she looks nothing like this now!  Like, who is this baby?  Also, the nurse's gloved hand reminds me a little of the alien's hand reaching under the door in the movie, "Signs..."
Below is just a video of her getting all swaddled up.

When they were taking her footprint they decided to imprint her onto her daddy.  He'll never wash his arm again.
One thing I do remember from that night is that she was SO tired.  Actually, when they first put her on me, she was wide awake for a bit.  But after that (and even until now) she just slept.  The picture below was taken when we were trying to wake her up to feed her.  She had only fed a tiny bit and it had been hours and hours and the nursery nurse (who we didn't like) was threatening us that they would be forced to do something I wouldn't like if she didn't eat soon (though she refused to say what).  We tried everything we could think of to wake her up - moving her face around, pulling her eyelids up, tickling her feet, moving her up and down, clapping in front of her face and...nada.  She'd just yawn, squirm and keep those eyes firmly shut.  Finally, after about an hour, we just gave up and told them it wasn't going to happen!  I took a video of this too, but for some reason blogger wouldn't let me upload it.

At some point that night Tom's parents came for a visit:

Since the rest of the hospital stay is truly such a blur, these pictures will just have to tell the story for me.

On our second night post birth (Sunday night) Tom put her to bed with a little, "Winnie the Pooh" reading.

These next few were taken right before we went home.  Before I end though, I just want to say a few more things about our hospital stay.  First, the nurses (for the most part) were really great.  They were super nice and helpful and respectful and everything you'd want from a nurse.  Second, while I am usually a HORRIBLE sleeper, I magically a baby, the whole time.  Third, she was notorious for sleeping instead of eating.  There were a few times when she actually fed, but mostly she'd just latch on and fall asleep two sucks later with no hope for us waking her.  Also, it was hard to walk around and I mostly stayed in bed.  When I got up it was hard to stand up fully and I felt nauseous.  I remember the nurses kept telling me so many things and it was hard to keep track of everything.  They kept giving me papers to sign, giving me meds to take, telling me how to breastfeed and how to take care of myself and just on and on.  There was always something going on.  I fondly remember that I could order anything I wanted from room service, and as much as I wanted, for free.  Some of it was quite scrumptious and some of it not so much.  I remember going to the nursery and giving her her first bath, with Tom, and it being not her favorite thing ever.  I remember kind of watching the BYU - Utah game Saturday night and not being surprised when they lost.  I remember Tom's sister Emily, her husband Tim and Tom's sister Stacey coming to visit on Sunday.  I remember Tom going to sacrament meeting at the hospital chapel Sunday morning and being brought sacrament in bed later on.  I remember someone saying that she was born on International Peace Day.  And I think that's about all I remember!

All buckled up and ready to go home:

In the car:

Finally home:

In her bassinet:

With her panda:

Those last few photos were all taken a few minutes after she came home.  We've taken more now and I have lots more thoughts on how it's been with her home, but that is definitely going to be for another post!

Anyway, what an experience!  We're so glad to finally have her!


  1. AH! She is so, so pretty! You are right. Usually they look like chewed gum. And I'm totally jealous you have a sleepy baby. Mine were awake and crying all the time. Except Josie. Maybe it's a first kid thing? Also, this reminded me so much of Josie's birth. I only lasted 2-3 hours on pitocin, though. Congrats on mastering Hypnobirthing! I've never quite gotten there. My labors have fortunately been short enough that I can just moan and groan through it until the pushing. I'm so glad you had such a good experience. You got what you wanted and were in control. Oh, and post labor amnesia is totally real. I only know certain things that were on the birth videos. Otherwise, it would be a total blur. Congrats, again sis!!!

  2. I really wanna talk to you so call me sometime!! I loved reading this!!

  3. Omg, Sheri! She is so adorable! I can't wait to see her in person one day.

  4. Isn't she just the sweetest thing... huge congratulations all around. Well done!

  5. She is sooooo cute! I can't wait to hold her. I love the pic with Tom reading to her. Precious precious!

  6. I usually don't say this about babies cause they usually look like bald old men but this is one cute girl. Although it doesn't surprise me since she came from you. Tom suffers from the same thing I do. My back goes out in times of stress. Brought on usually from big changes. Changes both positive and negative. So my back pretty much goes out through major life changes. I feel for him since I just went through it this past week. I wish you all the very best. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Wow, we're so happy for you guys! Congratulations! She is beautiful!