It seems only natural that I write your birth story in the form of a letter to you…
Your Dad… Full of Surprises
It was Sunday, April 24, 2017 – three weeks and one day till your due date. Your dad was away on his aircraft carrier, the USS George Washington, while it conducted a couple weeks of training exercises. He was due to return the next day.
In the meantime, your grandma was in town keeping me company and helping me prepare for your arrival!
We’d just settled down on the couch after a day of shopping when I heard the door knob rattle. I looked over at our glass front door to see a green figure standing outside – your dad in his flight suit! He burst in with a bouquet of flowers… He’d had a chance to leave the boat a day early, and decided to surprise me!
I was stoked!
After I finished saying, “Oh, my God” for the hundredth time, we all settled back down on the couch to chat about your dad’s latest outing. The carrier was leaving again in mid-May, right around your due date, but your dad had managed to get out of going because you were due to arrive around that time.
The next day brought more piddling around the house, some “nesting,” and me announcing that it might be finally time for me to pack a hospital bag. But, meh, I had three more weeks for that.
That evening, April 25, 2016, at 7:30pm, we settled back down on the couch to watch a little Hunger Games. And, as I scooted around to try to find a comfy spot…
I both heard it and felt it.
I immediately gasped out loud, my heart jumped into my throat, I got goosebumps everywhere, and the hair on my neck stood straight up!
Just sat there. Yep, I sat there, frozen in place, as my broken water slowly soaked the couch.
“What’s wrong?” your gramma asked. A split second later, after one good look at my face, “Did your water break?”
“My water broke,” I choked out.
“Get up, get up!” they both said to me. But I didn’t budge.
Finally, your dad took my arm, and said, “Why don’t you go to the bathtub?” I hopped down the stairs, leaving a lovely fluid trail behind me, and got in the tub, fully clothed.
Just sat there again! Shaking, wide-eyed, holding onto the sides of the tub like I was about to go on the wildest roller coaster ride of my life.
I’d never felt my heart beat so fast, or so hard. That feeling of shock, mixed with nervousness, mixed with denial is indescribable to this day.
Your dad, ever the tidier-upper, of course took that opportunity to clean the couch. Your grandma cleaned up the water I’d trailed down the stairs.
I didn’t find out about that mini-cleaning spree til later. If I’d known at the time that, while I oozed amniotic fluid into the bathtub – alone! – they were cleaning up after me, I’d probably have had a few choice words for them. But at the time, my mind was reeling so fast I really had no idea how much time went by.
When they finally showed up in the bathroom, they tried to get me out of the tub and get me to call the doctor, but all I could say at the time was, “I need a minute…”
“I NEED A MINUTE!”
I mean, shit, my knees were so weak I couldn’t even stand up! But, after a minute or two, I was somehow able to gather my thoughts – and myself – and make my way down to get my phone.
Call the Midwife
The midwife‘s first words?
I wanted to reach through the phone and backhand her. I was more than three weeks early!
Her second words?
“Don’t have sex.”
EW, EW, EWWWWWWWWWWW.
“Do those words truly have to be said?” I asked her.
“Unfortunately, yes. You’d be surprised how many people take this opportunity to get in one last hurrah.” she said.
You know, now that I re-read that, a recounting of that conversation probably doesn’t need to be in any mother’s letter to her son…
The options she gave me were, “You can come to the hospital now if you want. Or you can labor at home for 12 hours or when contractions are five minutes apart, whichever comes first.”
It was nearing 8:00 at night. We decided to stay home and try to get some sleep.
Get some sleep… HA!
I’d like to go back, pat the top of that girl’s head and say, “Aw, bless your heart.” What soon-to-be first-time mom sleeps after her water breaks??? I’d like to meet her.
She also told me, “I want you to take some quiet time with Steev, catch your breath, get close to each other, and draw on each other for strength and focus tonight.”
And in her attempt at some suuuuuuper-zen advice, what was my dumbass question back?
“Can I still watch my movie?”
I can only imagine the look on her face on the other end of the line…
OK, relaxation and meditation it is. Your grandma was already in bed, gearing up for what was to come. It was almost like she had some sort of prior knowledge about what to expect or something… *wink*
First things first, though. Pack that freaking hospital bag! A cute tank, a cute skirt (hey, I wanted to look good for you when you first met me) a robe, some socks, a heating pad, snacks, a tennis ball.
Off to bed for what was gonna be our last night as a couple. Or so we thought…
The Next Morning
That sleep we wanted to get? Yeah, never came. We chatted for a while about the jitters we were experiencing, about our nervous excitement at how our lives were about to change, about how unprepared we felt, about how unprepared we actually were since there were still several items we had yet to buy…
After a few hours, we finally closed our eyes, and tossed and turned for what felt like about five minutes before the alarm clock went off.
Hello, 6:30! Your dad was ready to grab a bite to eat and go. I, on the other hand, wanted to take a shower.
While sitting on the bouncy ball.
I grabbed a towel to put on the shower floor, so my round body wouldn’t roll off the round ball and crash onto the tile.
Your dad, once again concerned about the wrong thing at the wrong time, could only focus on the fact that I’d be leaving a soaking wet towel behind while we went to the hospital. This time, I took the opportunity to share a few stern words before continuing with my shower plans.
And, oh, what a great plan it was! For whatever reason, bouncing around in a nice hot shower was exactly what I needed to start the morning.
Off to the Hospital
A few minutes later, cute-yet-comfy outfit on, towel wrung out as much as humanly possible (courtesy of your dad), we were on our way! Ten minutes later, we pull up, toss the keys to the valet, and head inside to information.
“Where do you go to have a baby?” (I’m so witty…)
Up to the maternity ward, I reuse the same line (even funnier to me this time), and head to the labor and delivery room. No sooner am I greeted by the midwife I called than she tags out, high-fiving midwife #2 who’s just starting her shift.
And who delivers some unfortunate news.
I tell her I’ve had zero contractions in the last 12 hours, she checks me, and I am 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced.
“So, I know you were hoping for an intervention-free birth,” she says. “But here comes your first intervention. We need to get you on Pitocin.”
Well, that sucks. It appeared that my body just wasn’t ready to give birth yet.
“So then, why did my water break?” I ask.
“Why are you asking me a question only God knows the answer to?” she asks back.
Aaaaaaannnd there went midwife number two I wanted to backhand.
So, we started the Pitocin around 8:30am on the 26th, 13 hours after my water broke. They started me out at 2 milliunits (mU), and increased the dosage by 2 mU every half-hour until we reached 20 mU.
In the meantime, although I’m doing this with a midwife rather than a doctor, I’m also being assisted by the hospital nurse who’s on duty that day. As they always do when someone first arrives, one of her many questions includes what my pain relief plans are.
“I don’t plan on receiving pain relief,” I tell her.
“With Pitocin??” she asks, her face contorted as if I’m crazy.
“Yes,” I say, matter-of-factly, disappointed in what I interpret as an ever-so-slightly condescending tone.
“Honey,” she says while giving me that aw-bless-your-heart pat I mentioned earlier, “Pitocin is really harsh. Most people can’t do that.”
“Well, I’ll take some Tylenol if I need to,” I tell her.
At this, she full-on laughs out loud…
“Tylenol?? Tylenol isn’t gonna do it.”
Backhand number 3… they’re really starting to add up…
So, 4.5 hours later, I hit 20 mU of Pitocin, and continue at 20 mU for another 4 hours. The monitor is showing contractions every few minutes, but I don’t feel a single thing.
“Tylenol, my ass!” I think to myself. “This shit’s nothin’.”
I assume at this point that I’m super close to seeing your face, and I feel like She-Ra (i.e. a badass heroine… when I finally start letting you watch TV — which will solely consist of 80s cartoons — you’ll see what I mean).
The midwife checks me again at 6:30pm: 0% dilated, 0% effaced.
I mean, no, I hadn’t had any significant pain yet. But it had been a day since my water broke! And I hadn’t slept! And I was zero percent closer to getting you out!
I try to look on the bright side. It had been kind of a fun day so far, regardless.
I’d been able to hop on my iPad and order some last-minute items that would be waiting on our doorstep when we took you home… I was able to chat and joke around with your dad and grandma, perfect my bounce rhythm on the birthing ball, chow down on some yummy brownies I’d packed (which the midwife severely scolded me for)…
… and your aunt had even been able to make the trip to be there for your arrival!
It had been late enough when I’d called her the night before, that she wasn’t sure she could safely make the 6-hour drive up. But, when the next morning rolled around and she heard that we were still waiting for you, she hopped in the car and made it by lunch time! So, all in all, a good day.
New Game Plan
But back to that night… Typically, doctors don’t want someone to go much past 24 hours between water-breaking and baby-delivering. Around this time, they start talking Cesarean.
But there are so many benefits to vaginal delivery, and I wasn’t ready to give up. Though I hadn’t slept the night before and was super tired, I hadn’t yet experienced any significant pain. So, I wasn’t at the level of exhaustion to be thinking about a C-section just yet.
And you were being constantly monitored, and had shown absolutely zero signs of distress. So, miraculously, after a quick chat with the doctor, my midwife announced that they’d let me try for a vaginal delivery again the next day!
I got some dinner that night to keep my strength up (though I was already feeling up to the task after carbo loading on all those brownies!), and then the midwife gave me a prostaglandin suppository to help soften my cervix for the next day.
I tried to sleep again (to no avail… obvi), and wearily hopped in the shower at 5am the next morning – 33.5 hours after my water broke – before giving the Pitocin another shot.
Contractions Be Like…
I knew immediately that the prostaglandin had worked. I was feeling some cramping and pain in my lower back, and was leaking milk. I know, I know… TMI.
Midwife #3 (they only work 24 hour shifts) checked me: 1 cm and 10% dilated.
Seriously?? THAT’S IT??
Better than nothing, I guess, but the lack of significant progress was a definite buzzkill. It had been my second night with no sleep, so I was afraid another long day would tire me out pretty quickly.
I’d been excitedly bouncing on the birthing ball most of the day before, but as they hooked up the Pitocin that morning, I told your dad I was going to lay down and try to get a couple more hours of sleep while we waited for it to kick in. Then, suddenly…
“OW! What the hell was that??”
I’d just felt a sharp pain in my lower back. I brushed it off and curled up into a ball, my favorite napping position.
“OW!” It happened again.
“It’s contractions,” your dad said, as he checked the monitor.
They were my first two of the day, and they hurt. I uncurled, and tried to get my head right for what was to come. And, boy, did it come fast. I again started the Pitocin at 2 mU, but today, there was no need to turn it up from there.
It was 7am on the 27th, almost 36 hours since water-breakage, and within an hour the contractions were coming every 2 to 3 minutes. Out came that tennis ball I packed. A little trick we learned from one of our many baby classes: counter-pressure is your new best friend.
“Counter-pressure!” I’d yell to your dad whenever a contraction started up. He’d grind that tennis ball into my low back with everything he had, while I tried my best to pant through the pain.
I found the one thing that worked surprisingly well in keeping me focused, was grabbing the bed rail and rocking back-and-forth. Problem was, after a while, the nurse (and your dad, and your grandma, and your aunt..) thought I actually might break it off if I didn’t stop.
By 10am, 38.5 hours after my water broke, my pain level was at a 10. And with little-to-no sleep the two previous nights, the desperation came quickly.
All. The. Drugs.
Nurse Martha – my final nurse in this whole ordeal – asked me if I’d like some pain relief, to which I replied, “Yes, can I have some Tylenol? I just need to take the edge off.”
To her credit, she was the first nurse who didn’t laugh at me out loud.
“I think you need to consider something a little stronger.”
*Oh, Nurse Martha, how diplomatic of you!*
“But I wanted a medication-free delivery,” I said.
“Well, this has been going on for a while, and I know you don’t want to have a C-section. I think you would make quicker progress if you were able relax, and I don’t think that will happen without some pain relief,” she said.
We discussed my options, either an opioid that would provide a couple hours of relief, or an epidural that would provide pain relief through delivery.
For whatever reason, even at this point, I still wanted to feel delivery. Somehow, I thought I’d be missing out on the birth experience if I didn’t feel at least some pain.
So, I opted for the opioid – Dilaudid.
Somehow, the pain of labor and the exhaustion of two nights without sleep clouded my memory to the point that I forgot that opioids make me high AF, even long after the medicine’s pain relief wears off.
So, I got the shot, and while I could still feel a moderate amount of pain, it did succeed in taking the edge off for about two hours.
Two glorious hours.
Problem is, after the pain relief wore off, my pain level immediately shot right back up to a 10. That, coupled with the exhaustion, coupled now with the fact that I was high as all get out, made the aftermath a total shit show…
I’d have a massive contraction that lasted about a minute, and once it ended I would pass the hell out for about two minutes until the next massive contraction awakened me again.
Pass out… wake up to significant pain… pass out again… wake up to significant pain again… repeat… repeat… REPEAT… REPEAT…
The cycle was absolutely vicious. Especially given the fact that I didn’t know I was passing out between contractions.
Like I said… high AF.
In my mind, I was having one contraction on top of the other without any break in between. Your dad and grandma kept trying to tell me that my contractions were 2 to 3 minutes apart, and that I was just falling asleep (translation: passing the hell out) in between each one. But I thought they were lying. Lying through their teeth.
In any case, perception is reality. I truly had no idea I was actually getting a break in between contractions, my head was so messed up from the opioid. It felt like they were right on top of each other.
At this point, we were approaching hour 40. The medical staff was already discussing their “concerns” (translation: discussing the possibility of a C-section) because my body was so tense, it was preventing you from descending very quickly.
So, finally, after another hour at pain level 10, I told the nurse I needed an epidural. Kind of funny, when you think about it…
From the minute I stepped inside the hospital, everyone was telling me I should plan on an epidural because the Pitocin would be so painful. I kept resisting and resisting and resisting. I even told your dad to push back if, at some point, I myself requested an epidural.
Then, at hour 40, less than two hours before your arrival, I finally asked for an epidural.
As promised, your dad pushed back. He asked me three times to confirm that I really wanted an epidural. Unequivocally, I said yes each time. I was really kind of starting to lose control. I could not stay on top of the contractions, and was starting to feel pretty weak and pretty desperate.
Luckily, an anesthesiologist angel came down from heaven, and less than 20 minutes after my request, the epidural was in.
At this point, your heart rate had started to rise, as had mine. I’d also developed a low-grade fever, which the staff told me you likely had as well. So, it was probably the right time for me to have something that would calm me down.
I got comfortable and asked to be checked, dreading the result…
9 cm and 90% effaced!
I could hardly believe my ears! Immediately, I got pissed…
“I came this far, only to get an epidural at 9 cm?!” I yelled.
After everyone reassured me that this was a necessary step, since a Cesarean might not be far off, I calmed down and realized, one way or another, I’d see you anytime now.
All this, while still feeling like I’d just smoked the finest Mary Jane on the planet. The side-effect of the opioid had left me feeling so woozy and so out of it, that I struggle sometimes to remember the specifics of what happened next.
Your Birth (Finally)!
In a nutshell, your heart rate continued to rise, hitting 190 at one point. And our temperatures continued to rise, eventually hitting 102°. The nurse and midwife started to become concerned, and wanted you to go ahead and be born.
They asked if I wanted to try pushing before we discussed alternatives. I said yes and, lo and behold, you descended very quickly!
Nurse Martha asked if I wanted to touch your head or, better yet, if I wanted to mirror at the foot of the bed.
“Ew, I don’t want a mir…”
*wait…thinks about it…*
“…HELL YES, I want a mirror!”
She wheeled one in, angled it just right, and there was your head! Full of dark brown hair!
A couple more pushes, and I remember giggling out loud as I looked at the reflection, thinking, “This should hurt wayyyyyyyy more than it does…”
A couple more pushes, and at 1:42pm, 42 hours and 12(ish) minutes after my water broke, you were tossed onto my stomach.
There are no words that could ever – ever – come close to to even beginning to describe what an absolute thrill that moment was.
“Wait, wait, wait,” said your dad. “Is it a…???”
I grabbed hold of your leg, yanked it open, and he shouted…
“ITS A BOY!!!!”
He was so overcome with excitement, I thought he might pass out where he stood.