What a blur the past 23 days have been. I never thought I’d return to the same post so many times in vain hopes of completing it!
First, the stats:
A Dylan was born New Year’s Day a little after 2 a.m. He weighed 8 lbs. 12 oz. and measured 20 1/2 inches long.
I easily admit that I’m biased, but I really do think he is one of the prettiest newborns I’ve ever laid eyes on:
Overall, the birth went very well, though not at all according to plan. The Tuesday before my due date, I went in for my weekly checkup and my blood pressure was really high. My BP usually runs quite low and had stayed low throughout my pregnancy, so the doc was concerned. After running an ultrasound and a non-stress test which showed that Baby was doing just fine, Dr. Werner sent me in to L&D at Overlake to have them run some lab tests and monitor me for a few hours . . . and told me to take my bags “just in case.”
It was a bit of a rush, but all the same I didn’t think they’d admit me quite yet. After keeping an eye on me, they sent me home and put me on bedrest.
I wasn’t thrilled about bedrest — I’d worked further into my maternity leave than planned, and so my list of household to-do’s was quite long. Bedrest doesn’t lend itself well to to-do lists, but I did my best to stay planted on the couch.
I also worried at this point that my lack of activity would delay the onset of labor and I’d have to be induced. I’d been taking long walks, getting acupuncture, etc., in hopes of encouraging baby to come as soon as he was ready. Wasn’t sure how doing nothing was going to impact the timing.
Turns out, it didn’t slow things down at all. Thursday night, the 30th, labor began. After some minor cramping in the morning, contractions started to intensify around 5 or 6 p.m. I also had a little bit of bleeding for the first time in my pregnancy. Still, I wasn’t positive that “this is it.” I sat down on the couch with Justin and told him, “Uh, I think I might be in labor.” His eyebrows quickly raised and stayed in that position for most of the next few days.
The pain continued to intensify and I lost the plug a few hours later. We called our doula around 9 p.m. but I still wanted some time on our own as long as things were fairly manageable.
At my urging, Justin went and played around on the computer for a while to distract himself. He was very amused to emerge from the office to find me dancing around to Jackson 5 to keep my mind off the pain.
Margene arrived at midnight and helped me deal with the pain of contractions via different positions and breathing.
At 2:30 a.m. my contractions were consistently 2-3 minutes apart and 1 minute long and Margene suggested that we head for the hospital. It was very icy, so we took our time on the quiet roads. Justin told me on the way to the hospital that our doula would have suggested heading to Overlake a few hours earlier, but she felt I was coping really well, which I took as a big encouragement.
Once at Overlake, we got two pieces of disappointing news: 1) I was still only 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced, and 2) my BP was high again. The grouchy nurse told me that I wouldn’t be able to walk the halls and that I’d need to be monitored much more closely, get the heplock (iv) right away in case I needed meds to bring my BP down, etc. I was really bummed.
Then back labor began.
It was rough.
Because of all the extra monitoring, it was at least another 2 hours before I could get into a hot bath. At 5 a.m. shifts switched and I got a much kinder nurse, which made a big difference. I chilled out in the bath for at least an hour, then began rotating between the birth ball, bed, and the rocking chair. My BP remained high, so I wasn’t allowed to go far, but I did as much as I was able to do in the room. In addition to continually changing positions, I found low moaning and focused breathing extremely helpful.
The rest of my timeline is a bit of a blur, because basically Friday doesn’t exist for me, but here’s what I remember.
Friday mid-morning (my due date — the 31st) my pain was so intense that I was starting to lose it. I remember watching my friend go through this emotional transition during her own son’s birth — suffering and feeling so exhausted that you’re not sure how much further you can go. I knew to expect this, but it didn’t make it much easier. They did another check and I was still at 2 cm. Labor seemed to have stalled — my contractions were now much further apart (for a while they were up to about 7 or 8 minutes apart).
The doc suggested breaking my water, which I was open to, but I also knew that this put me on a timeline — if I didn’t have the baby in the next 18 hours, it would mean a c-section, which I really wanted to avoid. So we first tried to lower my pain level a bit with a medication called Nubain to see if that would allow me to relax and dilate further. In some ways, it was quite helpful — my BP came down and I was able to walk. Also, I was still able to feel my contractions, but the pain was far less intense. Early in the afternoon they checked me again and I was at 2 1/2 cm. Twenty hours in, and I was at 2 1/2 cm.
My doc was encouraging but straightforward with me — she laid out options for moving labor forward while also being honest about the fact that c-section was in the back of her mind if those options didn’t work. Dr. Werner was a very new doctor to me — my own doc was on vacation — but I was thankful to have another doc who was kind and patient and who I felt I could trust.
Another note: Justin was amazing. I know it was really difficult for him to see me suffering, but he hung in there with me and did whatever he could to encourage and support me.
They broke my water and gave me another dose of Nubain to deal with the more painful contractions until the anesthesiologist was available. (I’ve seen people try to deal with Pitocin contractions without an epidural and had no desire to add my name to the ranks).
I can honestly say there are few times I’ve been as happy to see anyone as I was to see the anesthesiologist as he walked through the door. I was nervous for the epidural, but he was such a pro — he was done so quickly that I hardly had time to be worried. I do remember asking the anesthesiologist if I could hug him and telling him that I was quite sure I loved him . . . I’m sure he hears that all the time.
It was heaven. Yes, one leg was “deader” than the other one and it felt very strange to not be able to feel my legs, but having the pain taken out of the equation allowed me to regain my faculties and be myself again. Though I was confined to the bed, I was able to move my feet and scoot around on the bed as needed with some assistance.
The hardest part about going the route I did was that I felt in some way that I was letting others down, especially my doula. I’d planned to work very hard for a medication/intervention-free birth, and here I was getting the full meal deal of all the hospital had to offer. Margene was very encouraging, however, and did her best to lay my fears to rest.
(Leave it to me to be worried about what my doula thinks during labor).
The easiest part was that we were very fortunate — at no point were there big concerns about Baby’s heart rate. He didn’t show any signs of stress in response to the Pitocin, etc. I was so thankful that we didn’t have any of those kinds of scares.
Twenty-seven hours into labor, I was finally at 5 cm. Hallelujah!
From there, things moved pretty quickly (thanks in large part to the Pitocin). Around midnight, I knew we were getting close. Baby had moved down very well, and we just needed to wait on the doc to come and examine me again before getting the go-ahead to start pushing.
Justin and my mom and I watched the Space Needle fireworks. Then Dr. Werner arrived. I was finally at 10 cm, and the baby’s head was super low down. Time to push!
It must sound so strange, but pushing was my favorite part. Finally, it was time for me to do something. I had the nurses install a squat bar so I could put my feet up on the bar (I was on my back), and Justin, my mom, the doula, and a nurse stood beside the bed to make sure my legs didn’t fall off to the side. I was fortunate to be able to feel the pressure of my contractions without needing to be told when to push, so I just went for it. Whenever they’d ask for one additional push, I did it. I wanted to meet my son!
One or two contractions into pushing, the doc asked me if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. Beforehand, I’d thought that I might be grossed out, and I didn’t think I’d want to. But when the moment came, I was thrilled. I felt his head right there, and I was literally overcome with tears of happiness.
I didn’t push long — a little over half an hour. The women surrounding me were all saying things like “You’re so close! Just a few more pushes!” but I didn’t believe them because I assumed of course they’d say I was close. When I heard Justin say, “Whoa . . . Whoa. OH, WOW,” I knew our son was soon to make his entrance. First, his head, and then about a second later the rest of him shot right out (I’m sure it always looks like this, but I was a little concerned by how quick the doc had to move to catch him — there’s clearly a reason it’s called “baby catching”).
Because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid (meaning, Ash pooped in the womb), I wasn’t able to hold him on my chest right away. Also, his breathing was really grunty and labored when he first came out (I was relieved to hear him cry, but immediately thought something didn’t sound quite right), so I had to wait a what seemed like forever before I could have him in my arms. The NICU nurse said that they wanted to check him out next door to make sure he was breathing alright, and I said that was fine of course, but that if it wouldn’t be risky, I’d love to hold him for just a few minutes before they took him.
So they placed A in my arms. And his breathing calmed. And they decided just to leave him with me (which I thought was pretty cool — there’s so much about the mom-baby connection we’re still figuring out).
Here’s the very first time I held my son:
It was amazing — magic — euphoria. It was every bit the moment I’d looked forward to all my life — and then some. I’ll write more about the days that have followed, but suffice to say, I never knew my heart could be so full of love — for both of the men in my life.