This is Kallie's write-up of Tova's birth. We don't expect everyone to read all of it. It's long and detailed. But it's nice to have written down and we expect family will be excited to read it. Love, d&k.
Tova was due on January 6th, 2009, on my two year wedding anniversary with my darling David. Everyone kept telling us how they hoped she would come early so we could get a nice tax deduction. But December 31st came and went and we wondered how late she would arrive.
I went into my OB appointment on Tova’s due date. I weighed 147 and a half pounds and was 2 centimeters dilated. I made an appointment for three days later, in case Tova hadn’t arrived yet. While checking Tova’s heart beat, the nurse told me I was having a contraction. I’d had them before, but didn’t realize they were contractions. I just thought Tova was stretching and her booty was pushing outward on my stomach. This was exciting news, but I wasn’t expecting to give birth for a few more days.
I drove home, ran some errands, and noticed some more contractions. They weren’t too bad and just made me excited that Tova was coming - sometime. That evening, they started to come pretty frequently and it was happening pretty fast. I told David I thought it might happen within twenty-four hours, but neither of us really knew. We went to bed around midnight on January 6th, 2009, and hoped to get some sleep. At 3 am on January 7th, I got out of bed, unable to sleep any longer. The contractions were becoming more intense and frequent. I let David sleep in case it was a false alarm and I got a stop watch. My contractions were lasting anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute and about three to five minutes apart. I woke up David and at 3:45am, he started keeping track: start and end time, duration, and frequency. The contractions ended up lasting about a minute and a half at times, with only two to three minutes in between. At 4:45am, we called the doctor and he told us to head to Lakeland Regional Medical Center (LRMC).
Around 5am, we checked into triage. They hooked me up to two monitors - one for Tova’s heart rate and one to read my contractions. We ended up sitting there for several hours. My contractions were becoming more painful and I had been walking and lifting up my legs (I mainly felt the contractions in my hips and moving my hip joints helped) to relieve some pain. Now I was strapped to a bed and couldn’t move, so breathing and grabbing onto the sides of the mattress were the best I could do. I have to say, I was pretty tame and wasn’t screaming, crying, or vomiting like some of the other ladies in triage I was hearing (yuck). My doctor, Dr. Mammel, was on duty that night. He had been awake for over twenty-four hours and had a few deliveries, so the nurses were letting him sleep until he was really needed. Eventually, the nurse thought she saw some meconium (baby’s first poo) in the amniotic fluid that was slowly leaking from me (my water never really “broke” like you think. I probably had a hole higher up, so it slowly leaked throughout labor.) That meant I could leave triage and head to labor and delivery.
Once in laboru and delivery, the nurse set up my IV, which was nearly the most painful part. My arm spurted blood everywhere and she jabbed the needle around for a few minutes, getting blood samples and setting up all of the stuff. David had left to get our bags out of the car, which was a blessing. It was a lot of blood. He wouldn’t have liked it. I went a few hours laying there and grabbing the sides of the bed while David rubbed my back whenever a contraction came. Eventually, I had some medication put in my IV that made me a little loopy. I was completely coherent, but it made me chatty and a little sleepy. I didn’t really like it because I just felt weird, with no change in the pain I was feeling. A few hours later, my dad arrived and came into the room. Then David’s mom came. I got another dose of the meds and the parents left. My mom arrived and I saw her for a little bit. Then I had everyone (except David) leave. They ended up giving me pitocin to speed up my contractions. I went through three more contractions and then had an epidural. The pain went from tolerable to incredibly sharp - something like needles or a knife twisting around in my hips and pelvis. Lovely.
Well, the epidural worked great on my right side, but was barely noticeable on my left. The anesthesiologist came back and pulled out the epidural catheter a little bit to reposition it. He then gave me another dose. My left side soon felt much better. After a few more hours, however, the left side had completely worn off and my contractions were getting very intense and frequent. The anesthesiologist came back and without repositioning the epidural, gave me another dose. That made my right leg go completely numb - scarily numb, and made no change to my left side. The rest of the labor, I felt everything on my left side and absolutely nothing on my right. At least I only felt half of the pain, but I think I was more upset that I couldn’t move my right leg and that it felt like a dead limb was in the bed with me.
Before the final dose of epidural medication, Dr. Mammel’s shift ended and Dr. Schwartz came into my room to introduce herself and the new nurses. Dr. Schwartz was amazing. She walked in, told me what needed to happen so that I wouldn’t have a c-section, and made sure I didn’t. Tova hadn’t dropped into my pelvis enough and I was already 8 centimeters dilated. So the doctor had me sit up in the bed to let gravity do its thing. David and I were left alone for a couple of hours and as my contractions started getting worse, I began to feel Tova’s head pressing very low. I didn’t feel the need to push, but it felt like Tova was going to come out, so I told David to call the nurse NOW!
I was ten centimeters dilated and Tova was low enough to start pushing. She gave me an option to wait a little longer and have the doctor come in, or go ahead and do some trial pushes to see what happens and call Dr. Schwartz when Tova was about to come. I wanted to push. So she set everything up, had David hold my left leg, and we started. I pushed for about fifteen minutes and Tova’s head was crowning. Dr. Schwartz came in and I pushed through three contractions and Tova was here! She was born at 8:41pm on January 7th, 2009. It’s still a little unreal. Nothing was quite connecting in my brain, and I’m not sure that it has yet. The little girl is my daughter and she’s absolutely beautiful. Even from the first second.
Thankfully, the nurse and doctor asked David if we brought a camera! Neither of us were thinking very well and we completely forgot. So David grabbed his video camera and captured some great moments.
After they cleaned Tova and finished her Apgar tests, we were able to hold her for a little while. Then we called in the new grandparents. You’ve probably seen the grandparent “paparazzi” photo. They could only stay for a few minutes. My dad had to go back to work, so he got to hold Tova first. Then the rest of the grandparents left because it was getting late and the nurses needed to do a few things before we could move to the Mother Baby ward.
The nurses kept Tova in the nursery for quite a while. They told us she would be back quickly to nurse since she had shown no interest yet, but it was at least an hour before we saw Tova again. We wish we had known it would be a while so we could have slept. Instead, we kept eagerly awaiting her return. Things were going fairly well until we realized we weren’t going to be able to sleep at all. We hesitantly decided to roll Tova to the nursery and let the nurses watch her for an hour so we could sleep. Later, Tova was wailing so loud and hard and we had no idea what to do. We called a nurse and she instantly told us Tova was hungry. I had tried to feed her before we called the nurse, but she wouldn’t take. This time, I was persistent, and it worked. She just needed to calm down a little bit to realize she was okay.
Staying in that little room was near torture. My mom came in during the day to help. At one point, we sent David home to get four hours of sleep. He wasn’t holding up too well with the lack of rest and was a little incoherent. My mom said she wouldn’t let him drive us home if he didn’t get some sleep. We also watched the Gator National Championship in the hospital bed - all three of us. (For the previous football championship, David and I were sitting on the Pacific coast on our honeymoon.) After two long days of sitting and waiting, Tova passed all of her exams - though her right ear took a while to pass the hearing test - and we left the hospital around 9pm on Friday, January 9th, 2009. It was cool outside and we were so happy to breathe some fresh air and return to the comfort of our home.
Since then, we’ve learned a lot. At first, we couldn’t sleep. I slept maybe 5 hours the whole first week. We finally learned that it’s not necessary to stay alert to every little noise and after taking turns sleeping, realized we could both go to sleep and she would be perfectly fine. That took a while, though. We also realized that we don’t need to use a monitor in our little apartment. No need to wake up to cooing noises - only to sounds of hunger. And now, a month later, Tova has gone up to 7 hours between feedings at night. It took her a while to transition to nighttime. We kept lights on at all hours for a long while so she wouldn’t cry and slowly worked down to just leaving on the closet light with the door closed. Tova also sleeps with music playing. She seems to sleep best when it’s noisy, and we’re okay encouraging that skill!
Parenthood has been hard and rewarding. Tova is the most beautiful baby. She’s part David and part me and that’s amazing. It’s still a little unreal that she’s here and she’s ours and I can look over at her right now. I think that when I can get 8 hours of sleep a few days in a row, things will start connecting better in my head and reality will start to sink in. She has already grown so much and I’m glad I’m taking at least one picture a day of the little bundle, because she’ll grow too fast and I’ll wonder where the days went. I already do.