We have a baby! I can barely believe it. We made it. We made him. It's been a little over a week and we're getting used to this brand new life with our little one. We are exhausted (duh) but so, so, SO in love. I have his childhood journal on its way but I wanted to document his birth story here too, while the details are still fresh in my mind.
I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions for weeks but shit started getting real on Friday. After experiencing some pretty strong ones all morning, I really wanted to know if I'd dilated past the half-centimeter I'd been stuck at for two weeks. We decided to go into Labor & Delivery to check. I was at a 2 but they really wanted me to be to at least a 3 before admitting me so they sent us home, told us to eat some lunch, take a walk and come back in 2 hours to see if I'd made any progress. So we did. We ate at Red Rabbit in midtown (I had a bomb taco salad that I need to go back and actually enjoy) and then decided to walk to our favorite Peet's Coffee shop about a mile and a half away. On the walk back, my contractions had really begun to ramp up. I had to stop about every block and brace myself against Joel or a wall to get through each one. There were some concerned onlookers as I'm sure it's a bit jarring to see a pregnant lady stopped in the middle of the sidewalk clutching a brick wall.
We made it back to the car and drove back to Kaiser. This time I was at 2.5. SO CLOSE. But still, not enough for an admission so we decided to go down the street to my mom's house so Joel could get a nap in and I could labor in my mom's jacuzzi soaking tub. The bath felt amazing and really did make dealing with the contractions (which were growing stronger and closer together) more bearable. My mom suggested we take a walk around the block and start timing the contractions. After just walking up and down the street my contractions were 3 minutes apart, lasting a minute and taking my breath away. I knew it was time.
The three of us piled into the packed car and headed to the hospital. We were almost to the entrance when I felt a strong one coming on. I gripped the car's "oh shit" bar and prepared to breathe through it when all of a sudden I heard and felt a POP! My water had broken! I remember thinking GREAT, my seat is ruined but when we parked and I got up my seat was dry. I don't exactly understand how but it's like my water broke and the seat acted like some sort of seal--I don't know. Joel rushed inside to grab a wheelchair while my mom gathered our bags. The nurses in Labor & Delivery exclaimed, "you're back!" and knew by the look on my face and the trail of amniotic fluid I was leaving on the floor (ew) that I was here to stay for the main event. Sure enough, they admitted me and we got settled into my room.
Y'all. No amount of reading, research, advice or stories told could prepare me for active labor contractions. They are unlike any pain I've ever experienced--I almost have to just respect it. I threw up twice and couldn't stop shaking which freaked me out but was told is normal during this stage. I knew breathing was the key to getting through them so I did my best to control my breath and find a focal point in the room to get through each one. The pain would build and build and build and just when I thought I was going to die, it'd subside. I found myself moaning through each one and Joel (later) told me I was making sounds he'd never heard before haha. I labored lying down. I labored on my side. I labored on the exercise ball. Finally, I labored in the shower with Joel passing the hand-held pressurized water showerhead over my lower back and stomach. My original birth plan was to labor in one of the tubs they had but the feeling of being buoyant coupled with the strong contractions didn't feel too great so I stuck to the shower which felt awesome...for a while at least. I wanted to labor as long as I could without meds but was not opposed to getting the epidural if I felt like it. I made it to 6cm before I felt like it. First, I tried Fentanyl. My nurse said it would feel like the equivalent of taking 6 shots of alcohol. Let me tell you, it DID. It was glorious but only lasted a short while. It was only a matter of time before I asked for the epidural. The anesthesiologist was probably my favorite person (I wonder why) on our hospital team. Immediately after getting it I felt a trillion times better. I could still wiggle my toes and feel the pressure of the contractions but I was no longer in barf + tremor-inducing pain and could sit up in bed and chat with my family while things progressed.
My in-room support system consisted of Joel, my mom, mother in-law and sister Emma. I got checked a short while after getting the epidural and was at a 7. Success! We all tried to take a nap, myself included. I didn't actually fall ASLEEP-asleep but I did get some rest in which I knew would do me well since the hard part was yet to come. After a couple more hours I started feeling an immense pressure start to build that almost felt like I needed to use the bathroom. I was told this was a good thing and meant I was ready to push. Sure enough, I got checked and was at a 9.5! FINALLY! It was go time. Or so I thought...my trusty anesthesiologist popped his head into my room and asked if I wanted one last round of medicine--a bolus epidural--before pushing. I was like, hell yes I do. Well, that shit ended up numbing my lower half COMPLETELY, so I could no longer feel below the waist (at one point I asked Joel to adjust my pillow which was actually my ass HAHA). The monitor was still showing my contractions but I could no longer feel them or the pressure or urge to push anymore so unfortunately, I had to wait another three hours for the meds to scale back enough to feel that again.
I suppose it was meant to be because by the time I was ready to push for real, my midwife we'd been seeing the entire time clocked on to her shift and would be helping deliver my baby! I was stoked. They started bringing in all the delivery tools, turned on the warmer above the baby station and re-positioned me on the bed. With Joel holding one leg and my mom holding the other, I was instructed to take a big breath on the next contraction, curl over my abdomen and push my baby out. I was expecting this to be the worst part--to feel like I was being split in half but honestly, I felt no pain, just pressure. I pushed and pushed and pushed with all of my might and all of a sudden I saw my mom and Joel's face start to get weepy. Baby's head was crowning and there was so much hair! On the next set of pushes I gritted my teeth and bore down, but he wouldn't come out and his heart rate started to dip so they brought in another doctor and the vacuum to assist (I later learned the reason I couldn't push him out on my own was because the cord was wrappd around his neck so each time I pushed, the cord was pulling him back in). That sped things up and on the next set of pushes I was determined to meet my son. I'll never forget the immediate feeling of relief, both physical and emotional as they pulled him out and up and placed his warm, wet body on my chest. I cried and looked up at Joel who was also crying as he leaned down to kiss me and whispered, "you did it." I'd never felt more proud of anything in my entire life.