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Monday, May 2, 2011

The Arrival of Norah Annabel Smith: Part One

*Of course this is the post the blog has been leading up to for 9 months, and I wanted to make sure that I wrote the story of her birth in a way that helps me remember the details.  That being said, it's likely that portions will be fairly descriptive and possibly graphic due to some of the circumstances that occurred.  I know that most friends and family reading this have already heard many of the details, but for others checking in I just wanted to clarify that I'm writing this as much for myself as for the blog so that I can process the event. It will be long, and hopefully not TMI for most of you :) *

Part 1 - Labor and Norah's Birth
April 25, 2:12 AM:

I woke from a sound sleep to the sensation that my water had broken, and got up to check and be sure...there was no doubt about it and I came back to bed to tell Matt that we're going to meet our daughter soon! I started timing contractions which began immediately after, and they ranged from 4-7 min apart and  lasted about 1:00 for a while.  Winnie (our cat) was up with me and totally knew something was going on, while Lainey (the dog) casually glanced at me on my way past her to the bathroom as if to say "I'm sleeping right here, please don't step on me" and promptly went back to sleep.  I told Matt to try and get some rest, as he had literally just turned out the light and gone to sleep just about 2!  

5:19 AM: Labor has definitely started! Nothing serious yet, but contractions are consistently about 5 min apart and getting slowly stronger.  I think we're going to have a birthday today (well...I hope it's today and not tomorrow!!)  I am able to manage the contractions mostly by sitting on an exercise ball and rocking side to side. I've had to have Matt help me focus on a few of them and he's a great support! 

7:41 AM: Called OB Triage as contractions are now about 3 min apart and have been for the past hour. I have had a few contractions that dropped me to my hands and knees and definitely feel the need to start making some noise to get through them.  There is no real way to be distracted through them at this point, and just have to focus on coping with each one.  Because my water had broken they asked me to come in and be checked and hopefully be admitted.  We scurried around and packed the last minute items we could think of, and we headed off to UM around 9:00.

At this point my times get a little less specific, but around 9:30 we got to the hospital and went up to triage. They got me hooked up to a fetal monitor to watch baby's heart rate and to follow my contractions, and paged the midwife on-call to come down and check me for a starting point.  A midwife student named Anouk was here studying from the Netherlands, and she was with us pretty much from triage through delivery.  I can't say enough how special it was to have her support throughout the process - she was truly wonderful and helped both Matt and myself tremendously.  It was like having a doula we hadn't planned for, and I seriously don't know how we would have made it through without her!  Kathy Bedikian was the CMN on-call for the day, and would be the one who delivered Norah.  She came down to triage, checked my cervix (was at a 4 cm dilation and 100% effaced) and confirmed that my water had broken.  I was set to be admitted!

We walked down with our nurse to our labor and delivery room - we got a room with a tub just like we wanted which was a godsend - and got settled in.    Because I was still sort of in between early and active labor, they let me order a breakfast tray and try to eat a little since I'd been up since 2:00 without much to eat.  I got Fruit Loops, some yogurt and fruit, but by the time it arrived I didn't end up eating much of it because I started throwing up - this was probably  about 11:00.  Matt helped me labor through contractions by putting counter pressure on my back.  Things started to pick up, and looking back I think this is when transition really began - I did put together that throwing up is usually a good sign that the cervix is dilating quickly.  I was starting to have difficulty finding anything that would work to help me cope, and Matt asked if it was time to get in the tub. I said yes! Matt ran water in the tub and I think I was in the water by 11:30 or so. I won't say laboring in the water took the pain away, by any means, but it was more manageable and I spent probably close to the next 4 hours in the tub.  

Transition contractions were SO much more intense than I could have imagined.  They would peak and barely come down before another one would start, and I really had a hard time catching my breath at this point.  I was trying to breathe in my nose and out my mouth, but I needed pretty much constant breathing support from Matt and Anouk to help me through.  Probably about 1:15 I realized that my body was starting to push at the top of the contractions, whether I intended it to or not.  Anouk called Kathy to come down and check me, and although it probably only took her 5 minutes to get there it felt like forever! She checked me and said I was a 9.5 - I remember asking her if she could please, please make it 10? And she must have been able to stretch the last tiny bit, because she said I could just go ahead and push.  This was such relief for a while, because my contractions spaced out and I actually had a break in between them again.  Pushing was really hard work, but for the first hour or so it was actually a nice change from transition.  By the end of the second hour of pushing in the tub though, I was getting really, really tired and discouraged and felt that I wasn't making any progress.  They all assured me I was, but I just needed a change and so we got out of the tub and moved to the bed.  I was disappointed because I had wanted to have a water birth and didn't think I wanted to be on the bed, and I cried while walking over.  Didn't have time to think about it for long, and got busy pushing again right away!  I tried several different positions to push on the bed, and finally started to feel like I was doing something each time.  They asked if I wanted a mirror, which I swore beforehand I would not want, but it actually helped a ton for me to see what was going on.  

This last stage of pushing was probably the second worst part of labor along with transition.  Kathy felt that her head was slightly turned to the side, and she used her hands to slowly rotate with each push for a while.  Once Norah's head clicked into position, she really moved down and started crowning.  Once she started crowning, it took about 20-25 minutes more before she was born...and without any pain medication or numbing...that's a really long time to crown! I had the nurses and midwives laughing at one point because I kept saying "This.Is.BEASTLY"!  I could clearly see that she was so close to being born, and yet no matter how hard I tried she just moved so slowly each time.  It ended up being a good thing, because when she was finally born at 4:22, I really had no tearing and no need for an episiotomy.  Kathy handed her to me once her shoulders were out, and I pulled her up onto my chest.  She was perfect, and from the second I had her she was holding her head up looking around the room.  Matt was amazing, and he was right there by my side every minute.  We let her rest on my chest skin to skin and waited for her cord to stop pulsing before Matt cut it.  He didn't think he'd want to, but when it was time he was ready!  Her Apgar scores were 9 and 9, and she weighed in at 9 lbs 1.9 oz, and 21 1/4" long!  Matt asked Kathy and the nurses if they played a little guessing game for how big the babies would be and they said they totally do! When I checked in at triage, Kathy thought Norah would be about 7.5 lbs, and after a long while of pushing she said she was going to have to change her guess, but even then she couldn't have predicted how big she was! She laughed that they were all off by 2 lbs!!

Our care team was incredible - Kathy was absolutely wonderful and even though I had never met her she was exactly the kind of midwife we ended up needing.  She was supportive when I would get discouraged, and reminded me that what I was doing was hard work but totally within the normal range for a first baby.  When I was really in pain, she would stroke my hair or rub my leg, and remind me that it was all helping me get closer to meeting my baby.  And Anouk, who was there by our sides the whole way...she got us through the toughest part of transition and was a tremendous support to both of us when we needed it the most.  Right after the birth, she brought us a baby hat that the students from the Netherlands had purchased as a fundraiser for supporting healthy babies in Sierra Leone - it was really special to have that from her.  The day we were going home, she also came by and brought us a pair of knitted booties that her grandmother made for her to give to all the babies she helped brought tears to my eyes and those will always be a special reminder to us of the care and support we received that day.

Relief, Amazement, Bliss

Our first family photo

Sweetest moment

How on Earth did I have a 9 lb baby? 

(Photo taken on 4/27 before going home)


  1. Congratulations, and well done! She is lovely...

  2. Thank you for sharing the process....You, Norah and Matt look SOOOOOO beautiful in all of the photos...really - thank you!

  3. I was so happy to see this post up - I wanted all the TMI details! So, so, SO proud of you Tanya. Cannot believe you did that without drugs. Whew! Makes me tired just thinking about it.

    I've held off calling you, because I don't want to interrupt or wake you if you're managing to catch a zzzz or two! But when you have a moment, (ha, "talk to me in 8 months" right?) give me a call so I can congratulate you in person!

    Love to you.