The Birth Story: Grant and I chose the Bradley Method for our childbirth classes. We learned all about natural childbirth, relaxation techniques in labor, and anatomy and physiology of the female body in relation to the birth process (even though we are both nurses, Grant dabbles in Psych and I am a cardiac/ICU nurse so L&D is a long-forgotten language). We prepared for a long labor, as first births often are. We had a bag packed by the front door with snacks, a massage ball, slippers so I could walk the halls, etc. Grant was ready to coach me through the longest day of my life. My EDD was April 21st- a Wednesday. I chose to start my FMLA leave on Monday so I could have a little time to get things ready if the baby came right on time- and also because being on my feet for 12 hours was completely miserable. So Monday morning I woke up around 5AM needing to urinate and unable to sleep any more. I wandered around the house, ate a bowl of cereal and chatted with my brother Daniel on Facebook. He had just finished a day of teaching (in Japan) and I complained about how enormous I was and how ready I was for this baby to come. I told him how I was afraid it would be another week because first babies often hang out in the womb for a while, and that would “just be my luck”. He told me he would say a prayer, as he had been curiously lucky recently. I told him I would take what I could get.
Around 0730 Grant left for the gym, and I went back to bed. I was drifting off to sleep around 0815 when I felt- and heard- a very textbook and movie-ish POP and felt a gush of fluid. I immediately stood up and was in a puddle of amniotic fluid. I grabbed my cell phone and headed for the bathroom. I called the gym and explained to the woman who answered the phone that my water had broken and I needed her to find the bearded man most likely using the elliptical machine. (Grant told me later that she went up to him and informed him that “the water broke”- to which he very sincerely responded “don’t you have a maintenance man for that?”) By the time he got home, about 27 seconds later, I had already had two contractions. They started off very close together, and Grant timed the first ones after he got home to be between 4-5 minutes apart and lasting 90 seconds. He called the OB on call, and after she heard the data, she told him to bring me in. I of course refused. I had no intention of being at the hospital for 20+ hours laboring in a hospital gown, not being able to eat, with an IV in my arm, hooked up to a monitor. I went back to bed. Fortunately, Grant knows me well enough to know when he can boss me around. He told me we were getting in the car and having our baby at the hospital, not the bathroom floor.
By the time I got down the steps, I had another contraction. Down the steps to the car, another. They were about 3-4 minutes apart at this point and I could no longer talk, walk, or protest through them. I got in the car. Grant made the 14 mile drove to the hospital in around 10 minutes and the volunteer at the front desk was helping me in a wheelchair. We got up to the 4th floor (fortunately without seeing any of my co-workers) and they wheeled me into Room 4. Mynurse Nicole – who I would very soon fall madly in love with and want to be her best friend- asked me if I wanted an epidural. I guess by looking at my face she didn’t think I would have another chance. I told her that we had prepared for a natural labor and I was ready.
I got into my room around 0915 and at my first check was 4 cm dilated and 100% effaced. Twenty minutes later I was 6 cm, thirty minutes after that was 8cm, and at 1020 I was 91/2 cm with a small anterior cervical lip- and the urge to push started. Nicole informed me that Dr Doucette was in another room with a laboring woman but she could start pushing with me. Grant and I had decided that he would stay north of the equator to be my coach, but someone else needed to hold my other leg- so my brave husband jumped in. Later he told me he was so glad he did, because he was able to watch our daughter being born.
In the Bradley classes, our fabulous teacher Carla taught us about transition- the time when the woman is most likely to hit her limit. This usually is right before the baby crowns and the moment when the pain is most intense. There are physical as well as emotional signposts that she taught us to look for. I hit all of mine- I started shaking, threw up and told Grant and Nicole that I was not doing this anymore- they needed to find another way for this baby to come out. Grant broke into a huge smile and said “Christy, you are doing it- this baby is almost here!” That encouragement got me over the hump- two more pushes and she was out.
Purslane Claire Martsolf was born at 1132- a little over three hours after my water broke. Labor was intense and definitely the most painful thing I have ever gone through, but one of my proudest moments came when the med student who was assisting with my birth asked Nicole if all births were like this. She answered that “No, they are not- this girl is doing it naturally and is feeling everything”. In that moment I was so proud of myself and my body for doing what it was created to do. I birthed a baby.
She was born with a double nuchal- the cord was wrapped around her neck twice, so Grant wasn’t able to cut the cord. But her Apgars were 8/9 and her eyes were wide open when they put her on my belly right after she came out. I remember being in shock that we had a girl-I was convinced my whole pregnancy it was a boy and I asked Nicole to double check.
Everything that had been a blur for the past few hours came into focus when I saw her face. Most of this birth story is recounted from Grant- he told me later about things that I didn’t know were happening. He got me through this sprint of a labor, and I could not be more thankful for my sweet husband.