William Christopher Carriere was born on Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 at 9:40 am after 60+ hours of contractions, which began Saturday afternoon around 3pm. His weight at birth was 9 lbs. 8 oz., his length was 22 inches, and his parents have been forever changed in indescribable ways, beyond all comprehension and certainly beyond the realm of mere words on a computer screen... but I will attempt to tell the story of how our little boy entered the world.
On Saturday morning we had some visitors. Kev's parents, along with his brother Adam and his girlfriend Ari came to Maine to see us and have lunch. It was wonderful to have time with family, but I had a feeling that William would be coming at any time. At around 3 pm I was starting to feel real contractions, not the Braxton Hicks that had been happening frequently the past several weeks. At 3:45 Kev decided to start timing them and began a recording sheet to keep track of their frequency, duration and time elapsed. Knowing early labor can last forever, we tried to not get too excited and did our best to distract ourselves. It's funny, later on I looked at the notes Kev was taking and along the "comments" column he'd written things like "really strong this time", "crouching helped" and then I saw this little gem in his all caps handwriting: "My wife is so beautiful"... yep, I 've said it before and I'll say it again, I won the husband lottery.
As the afternoon passed into the early evening we had dinner and watched old episodes of the Office on netflix to try and make the time pass but it seemed agonizingly slow going. We went to bed later but I was too uncomfortable to lay down and ended up in the rocking chair and sometimes crouched on the floor waiting for contractions to pass, this lasted for hours. It was an incredibly long evening and by 1:30 am, my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and becoming more intense and had been happening for over an hour at that frequency, so we called our amazing doula Tiffany and the on-call doctor from my OB's office and they recommended we head in to the hospital. From the moment we got in the car for 45 minute ride to Maine Medical Center, my contractions began to stall a bit and I had a feeling we would be returning home. I have an intense dislike (maybe even a fear) of hospitals and I think that's why my labor slowed down. I hate the blaring fluorescent lights, the antiseptic smell, the darn windows that don't open, the stark whiteness of it all and the place always makes my hands sweat. Because of this our next birth will be different, we've already discussed a home birth with a midwife... but that'll be another birth story for a later date. We arrived and ended up in triage with an external monitor for what they said would be 20 minutes and ended up being closer to an hour. The results were what we already knew, my contractions were slowing and I was only a about 2 cm. dilated. Kevin, Tiffany & I walked laps around the hospital in these wee hours of the morning observing the paintings and making small talk, me cracking corny jokes about my butt sticking out of my johnny (another thing I hate about hospitals), all of us thinking the same thing... this baby wasn't planning on coming any time soon. Luckily, we were able to convince the doctors that we needed to go back home and try to let things happen at their own pace. Kev & I were driving back home by the time the sun's first rays starting waking the rest of the world up, with William still very content right where he was and the two of us feeling exhausted. I was able to sleep a bit in the car between sporadic contractions & we both headed to bed as soon as we got home. Mercifully, it wasn't too painful to lay down for a little while, but that was short lived.
Throughout Sunday my contractions were intermittent and inconsistent, but never really went away. I had zero appetite and only managed to eat a 1/2 a slice of toast. The whole day is hard to remember because it felt like that weird place between sleeping & being awake, all with contractions sprinkled every 5-10 minutes with no real pattern, rhyme or reason. I was starting to feel frustrated and kind of discouraged to be honest. When you know you're about to meet your baby that you've been carrying for LONGER than 9 months and also face the most intense pain of your life, you just want it to happen already, no more false alarms or gradual build up... I just wanted to get on with it. By the evening, I knew we were in for another very long night and my prediction was dead on. I spent the night between the rocking chair with a heating pad on my lower back and crouched by the bed for the more painful contractions. I kept looking at our sweet Bailey dog sleeping so peacefully on her fuzzy bed and I'm not gonna lie, I was very jealous as she snored with all 4 of her legs up in the air. Kev was wonderful as always and tried his best to stay awake but managed to drift off into dreamland now and again, which made me happy because someone was going to have to drive me to the hospital and that's hard to do with zero sleep. By around 2 am my contractions were getting very intense and when we timed them, we found they were between 1-3 minutes apart, usually only 2 minutes, and this went on for well over an hour. I took a shower to see if that eased them and it didn't, so we thought... here we go, this could be for real this time! We made the obligatory phone calls, same as the night before, but instead of heading in and repeating the night before's rodeo, I decided to wait and sure enough, eventually my contractions stalled again. It was miserable because they were painful, but just not productive. Fast forward to the next day with constant contractions and no sleep whatsoever for the second night in a row...
On Monday I had already been scheduled for a 41 week appointment with my OB so we headed in at 1 pm with fears that I might still only be 2 cm dilated even after 2 sleepless nights and lots of discomfort. Surprise! My doc told us to head to the hospital because I was between 4 & 5 centimeters dilated, which was enough to be admitted. I was nervous that if things didn't progress according to the hospital's time line I would be pressured into a c-section, which had been brought up weekly with my OB since 37 weeks. I was in no way interested in a c-section and had been fighting it all along because my doctor had never been able to provide me with a clear, medical based reason for why it was necessary. Starting around 38 weeks they began predicting Will was going to be over 8 lbs, but women have babies over 8 lbs. all the time and I felt this was a silly reason to suggest a c-section. I know medically women sometimes do need c-sections, but I also did my homework and learned a lot of reasons why women should avoid them unless they really are medically the best option for their babies. It seems crazy to me that they are the most common surgical procedure in this country and nearly 50% of them aren't necessary but performed for convenience. Anyway, I'll get off my soapbox...
Hospital time!!! We were quickly admitted (but not in the crazy, hurried way ala Hollywood) and went right into a labor & delivery room, skipping triage this time, woo hoo! Been there, done that! We met an incredible nurse named Sue who promptly had to end her shift, met another great nurse (name I can't recall), who was transferred somewhere else, and then met Tori, the nurse who would remain with us throughout the night... closing the revolving door of nurses, which would later be opened by doctors & residents. We got settled in and eventually it was decided that my water should be broken... something I was hoping mother nature would take care of on her own without medical intervention, but when Tiffany (my doula) became part of the decision and said that at this point, it would be best since I'd been having contractions since 2 days before so I decided to let that battle go and out came the crazy looking crochet hook device... enough said about that!
I recall that Kev started playing our hospital play list, but for some reason it got stuck on repeat. A few of the same David Grey, Ben Harper, and other songs played several times and they will forever remind me of the hospital.
To be honest, the hours from my admission until 2 am are a blur. I know once my water broke my contractions became much stronger and I wasn't able to talk through them anymore. I felt like the world would stop turning and the ground would open up and swallow me whole if I couldn't hold Kevin's hand, so I clenched it for dear life and together we breathed through each contraction. Our birth suite had a jacuzzi tub which was amazing for several hours and I know why they say water is mother nature's epidural, it helped a ton. I felt strong and confident and knew I was handling it well... but then things got really difficult. All my body wanted to do was push and I knew it wasn't time but it felt like there was nothing I could do to stop it, like my body was being hijacked and the pushing was not something I could control, almost like an involuntary muscle spasm. I knew this could happen, but there really isn't anything that can truly prepare you for it. Tori tried to prompt me to "go to another place" but let me tell you, when you've been in labor for what seems like forever, there is no other place, no other reality. She also had me try panting with Kevin making an "f" sound, which cracked us both up because at one point we sounded like a couple of sailors swearing, it was a funny moment during a tense time. We tried about every position imaginable and nothing helped, not the birth ball, the bed, various positions, nothing.
Eventually sometime well after midnight (the third midnight I'd seen in a row) a doctor I'd never met came in (this was after meeting another doctor & a resident who sporadically came & went) and after what felt like forever of trying to control the pushing, we learned I went from being 7 cm back to 5 and that was a crushing blow. The doctor basically told me I needed pitocin to help my swollen cervix & an epidural to allow my body to rest or we would need a c-section. Again with the threatened c-section! Neither pitocin or an epidural (or a c-section!) were part of my birth plan, I was set against them unless absolutely medically necessary, but after talking with my doula & being stuck between a rock & a hard place, we decided that it was better to accept this than to have to undergo a c-section later. I insisted that if we had to do this, I wanted both medications stopped as soon as possible so that I could push on my own and feel what my body was trying to do & be present when William was born. The doctor agreed and the clumsy anesthesiologist arrived, not making me feel very confident as he fumbled around while I tried my best to sit still through contraction after contraction. Around this time I learned my twin sister had been sitting in the waiting room for hours, all alone. I had Tiffany go get her and seeing her face made my heart smile, it was amazing to have her there. Once the epidural started to take effect I was able to sleep for a few hours and I must admit, after no sleep since Friday night, it was what I needed. According to my "entourage" (Kev, Kristi, Tiffany, Tori) initially I became very talkative & even cracked jokes so they eventually left me alone to get something to eat so I would stop chatting and get some rest. Me, acting silly? No, couldn't be! When they came back they tried to sleep, but I think Kristi spent most of her time watching the monitors like a hawk in case anything went wrong.
Fast forward... wee hours of the morning, pre-dawn, I realize this is getting long, but my labor was L-O-N-G so I guess that's unavoidable, bear with me, or take a break and come back later.
I don't remember chunks of time, but I watched the monitor and could see contractions peak but not be able to feel them, it was strange. Once the doctor determined I was almost fully dilated, I asked them to please stop the epidural & pitocin and they did, which made me feel like I had at least some power over what was happening. A few hours later Tori's shift ended and Sue came back, it was so great to see her again, she felt like an old friend. Another new doctor came in (the revolving door of doctors & residents was annoying, although the residents were awesome!) and wanted me to prepare for pushing but when she left the room, Sue told me to ignore her and give my body time to allow the baby to drop a bit more, which saved me an hour of pushing... LOVE her! An hour later the doctor & resident returned and again, tried to convince me to have a c-section but couldn't give me rational reasons as to why it was medically necessary, so I asked her just to tell me when I could push. I hadn't been in labor for that long to give up and I had to compromise on so many other elements of my birth plan, I certainly wasn't having a c-section for anyone else's convenience.
Around 9 am Sue told me it was time, I could go for it. I was nervous, excited, and emotional about the whole thing as Kev & Kristi assisted. I just remember thinking about labor as a sporting event and I gave it everything I had and believe it or not, I actually enjoyed pushing, it was something I felt like I could do and my effort had an obvious effect. Plus, at the end of it I knew we would meet our sweet William. Within 30 minutes of pushing phase Sue, Kristi, and Kev all told me William was going to be born in the next push and I was able to look in the mirror and see him coming... there are no words... He was born and I was able to deliver him myself and place him on my chest. I have never felt the rush of emotion that I felt at that moment when I saw our little boy for the first time. Tears came flooding and I didn't care, I just let them fall, the world apart from William ceased to exist, nothing else mattered and no other thoughts registered. Kevin and Kristi were also tearing up and being able to share it with them was the best gift I've even been given.
Sadly, William had to be taken to the warming station (in the same room, within my line of vision) so Kev went with him and Kristi stayed with me, thank God, because it broke my heart to have him taken away so soon. He had a slight fever, which went away within minutes, and meconium had been in the amniotic fluid since he was over 41 weeks, so they needed to do a thorough check. I heard him cry and of course, I began to cry too. It's funny, I am not emotional, not someone who cries, but in the hours after his birth, I think I cried more than ever before... it's the most profound, cathartic, transformative event of my life. Sue brought William back and we were able to have skin-to-skin contact and he nursed for the first time, like a champ!
The rest of the story involves 5 days in the hospital with Will being treated with antibiotics as a precaution in case he had an infection (he didn't), lots of blood draws, interrupted sleep, vital checks, etc... and some of the most tender moments between Kevin, myself, and William... our new family. William never left our sight and stayed in our hospital room with us, which didn't seem to be the norm on our floor, but we wouldn't allow anyone to take him away, we'd worked too hard and waited so long to meet him.
Tiffany, our incredible doula, helping me through some intense contractions, she was so amazing!
Little William right after he was born, daddy looking on
Now, we begin the rest of our lives together... a happy little family of 4.