Woah, guys. Woah. I’m a MOM. And a mom to a six-week-old, at that. I’ve spent the last six weeks adjusting to the biggest change I’ve ever experienced, and getting in lots of cuddles. My son Maxon was born at 6:27 p.m. on Saturday, June 10th. He weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20.5 inches long. Oh, and perfect.
Here is the full story of Maxon’s birth!
(If you can’t handle the gory details of labor, I’d skip this post and wait for the next one. I’m holding nothing back!)
The (Long) Road to the Hospital
On Wednesday, June 7th, my husband and I went to my OB’s office for my 39-week visit. We were late, as usual, due to the inconsistent traffic patterns that meant we were ALWAYS 10 minutes late or 45 minutes early, depending on the day. The previous week, I’d been a fingertip dilated and 80% effaced, according to the doctor I was seeing. This week a different MD in the practice saw me, and when she checked me, I was frustrated to hear,
“Yeah, no progress. Still a fingertip. I’d say 60% effaced.”
Great! A step BACKWARD!
At this point, I wanted that baby out. My back and my feet were killing me. I could no longer shop, go for walks, or do anything that required me to be on my feet for long periods of time. Contractions began for me at 34 weeks, so I was more than ready for my body to stop “practicing” and get on with the real thing.
One thing that had changed at my appointment was my blood pressure. As someone who is typically well below 120 over 80, a 140 reading caught my, my husband’s, and my doctor’s eye. She told me that she wanted me to go and get some bloodwork done the following day and wanted to see me back on Friday to check my pressure again and go over my lab results, which would tell her whether or not I was pre-eclamptic.
I wasn’t planning on taking maternity leave until the baby arrived, but with so many tests and appointments in my future, I decided that Thursday would be my last day of work. That morning, I went to my local lab and had my bloodwork done. I stopped for a coffee and headed home to try to finish up any last-minute tasks at work. But around lunch time, I started to have contractions that were growing in intensity. I started to time the contractions and around 3 p.m., told Mike to come home from work. They were three minutes apart for a minute long. I called my doctor and let them know that we were coming in.
We were taken to a triage room on the labor and delivery floor. I knew from my visit at 34 weeks that the beds were INCREDIBLY uncomfortable, and I was hoping to get admitted so that I wouldn’t have to go through that again. When you’re 9 months pregnant, an uncomfortable bed is enough to make you lose your mind. What I REALLY didn’t want to happen was for us to get sent home from the hospital without being admitted a second time.
And yet… that’s what happened. After monitoring me, the doctors and nurses said that I was having contractions 4 minutes apart and was no more dilated than I was the day before. But my blood pressure was still elevated. My bloodwork had come back negative for pre-eclampsia, but they said that I was now considered to have gestational hypertension and that it was time to start talking about an induction.
An Unexpected Induction
I had a lot of feelings about being induced. If you read my previous blog post about Bradley Method, you know that I wanted a natural labor – no drugs. But when you’re induced, you’re given Pitocin, a synthetic drug that brings on contractions but also makes them longer and stronger, with less time to rest in between. I was prepared for my body’s natural hormones to do their thing, but I wasn’t prepared for something artificial. I made the decision right away that I would be getting the epidural for my induction.
The hospital wanted me to keep my Friday appointment, so we made our way to the OB on Friday, my husband’s birthday. They hooked me up for a non-stress test, which only took 20 minutes. When they saw what my blood pressure was, the nurse disappeared for a few minutes. When she came back, she let us know that my doctor was suggesting we go to the hospital right away and that I would most likely be induced.
Holy cow. Was this it?! Finally a baby?!
We made our way over to the hospital AGAIN where I was taken to triage AGAIN and checked for pre-eclampsia AGAIN. Our fingers and toes were crossed that we weren’t going to be sent home again. After all, we were SENT here this time. After waiting a while, the doctors came in to tell me that I was going to be induced… but not until 12:45 a.m. This was around 10 a.m. I was still not pre-eclamptic, so my induction wasn’t an “emergency” and needed to be scheduled. They told us that in the meantime, we could go home.
I was NOT going home. We had been sent back and forth from that hospital so many times, my GPS was starting to think I lived there. All of our bags were in our car, we had called my mom and had her take the dog to daycare. Not to mention, my mom had made the hour and a half trip in for the second time and our apartment was an hour drive, one-way, from the hospital. We decided that we were going to stick it out and hang out near the hospital until around 10 p.m., when we would go to take a nap in the waiting room.
To be honest, we had a pretty great day. My mom met us for lunch at Franktuary, we browsed the shops in Shadyside, bought the baby a teddy bear at Target and got one of my favorite meals for dinner: Tofu tacos from Mad Mex. We got to the hospital around 10 p.m. as we planned and set up camp in the waiting room. I asked my husband to let the nurses know that we were there, just in case. As we sat, I started to feel a little bit lightheaded and anxious. I felt like my blood pressure was rising again, and we got one of the nurses to check me. I got the highest reading yet, and they started to work on getting me a room. This part of the night was a blur. When we got to my delivery suite, I asked to get a shower before we started. While I showered, it hit me that we were REALLY going to have a baby within the next 48 hours! Nine months of carrying this baby and imagining its face and soon I was going to get to see the real thing.
The first steps to starting my labor were getting me on Pitocin and giving me a Foley bulb. A Foley bulb is a catheter that is inserted into the cervix and then filled with saline. It helps your cervix to dilate and falls out when you reach 3 centimeters. This was my first time even hearing of a Foley bulb, so I had no idea what to expect. It gave me some painful contractions early on since my body wasn’t going into labor on its own. I was able to breathe through them pretty easily using the breathing methods from Bradley class, and when I got up to go to the bathroom after a few hours, the bulb fell out. (Fun fact: I didn’t even think about the fact that the catheter was hollow and was very surprised that blood went everywhere when the bulb fell out. But things would eventually get much messier.)
Around this time, my nurse let me know that the anesthesiologist was scheduled to do a c-section soon, and I had a few hours to decide if I wanted the epidural. I had been mentally prepared to handle my body’s natural contractions, but not Pitocin-induced contractions. I’d heard some horror stories of moms who waited until it was too late to get the epidural so, knowing I would want it eventually, I opted to get the epidural early on.
The epidural was quite possibly the most uncomfortable part of labor for me, even counting the pain. You’re allowed one person in the room to get it inserted, and they have to sit in front of you in a chair while you sit on your bed, facing the side. Before you get the epidural, someone explains all of the risks to you, which makes the process so much scarier. My team included a student, who took the first shot at inserting the tubing needed for me to get the meds. I was told to arch my back and was given a pillow to hug. I groaned the whole time. It was such an odd sensation and I kept picturing them hitting my spine. It didn’t help when the anesthesiologist told the student, “There normally isn’t this much blood.”
Once the tubing was inserted… they decided that it was inserted incorrectly and we started over again. I was in tears, but there was little I could do at this point. On the second try, the anesthesiologist took over, and I knew it was working when I started to feel relief… and could no longer feel my legs! The nurses seemed surprised that I couldn’t lift them at all, but it was a nice reminder that the drugs were doing their job.
Once I was dilated so much, it was time to break my water. This will forever be one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever gone through. First of all, I didn’t expect my water to be broken in bed, my butt propped up on pads to soak up the water. I thought maybe my butt would be at the end of the bed and the water would… I don’t know… go into a trash can?
Mike watched every single step of my labor, including the breaking of my waters, and it was fun to hear his side of the story, “He went in with the hook to break it, and there was a small gush, and I thought, ‘Oh, ok. That must be it.’ And then the flood gates opened and there was water EVERYWHERE.”
EVERYWHERE, GUYS. EVERYWHERE. It felt like I was lying in a vat of soup big enough to feed a moderately sized village. My stomach deflated by INCHES as soon as the water left, and I realized that my baby was probably smaller than was anticipated. The doctor had thought my stomach was all baby and that he would be over eight pounds, but as it turns out, it was all water.
From there, I settled in and was actually able to get some rest. The next few hours were a blur of TV (“What to Expect When You’re Expecting” was on!), naps and contractions… not that I could really feel them. Beyond a faint tightening, I couldn’t feel much. My husband and nurses were able to see my contractions on the monitor and would let me know when I was having a strong one. To be honest, I was quite comfortable and cool as a cucumber through 95% of active labor. I didn’t know that with each contraction, more of your waters gush out. I thought it was a one and done thing, but I was losing amniotic fluid during the whole process.
I wasn’t allowed any food or water after the epidural went in, so I asked for a constant stream of ice chips. Later on, I would get ice chips between each push to stay hydrated. If Mike got distracted and didn’t immediately pour ice chips in my mouth when a contractions stopped, I’d yell, “Ice chips!” Somewhere in the middle of active labor, I asked for anti-nausea medication because I was so hungry, I felt like I may throw up.
Another uncomfortable sensation was the itchiness that came with the epidural. When I started trying to scratch my skin off (only slightly exaggerating), they told me it was probably from the fentanyl in my epidural. My epidural was on a drip and I had a button I could push to give myself more. Besides the initial injection, I only pushed the button once (but probably should have pushed it twice, you’ll see below).
After about 12 hours of active labor, I felt a pressure that I guessed was the urge to push. It felt like something was pushing down with a decent amount of pressure every few minutes. I let my nurse know and she alerted my doctor. At this point, I was already at 10 centimeters and mentally SO ready to push. Even though I pushed for two hours, it went by really quickly. My nurse would take one leg, my husband took the other, and my mom cheered me on from behind my head. I’m not sure if it was just lip service, but I felt like I pushed effectively and everyone in the room seemed to make a comment about it. Between contractions, I was still able to relax a bit, until we reached that last half hour… and my epidural wore off.
To be honest, I didn’t realize it had worn off until Max was a few days old. I thought maybe labor just hurt that bad WITH the drugs. But after a conversation with a friend, I realized that no, a labor with a full epidural does NOT feel like that. I knew it had been decreasing in effectiveness because I needed to feel my legs to push, but by the time the baby got into my pelvis, I was screaming in pain. He got stuck a little bit and all I could do was scream nonsensical things as well as, “HE IS NEVER COMING OUT!”
I knew I was close to holding my baby when the room went from 4 people to 10, all trying to introduce themselves to me as I screamed. The spectators included a few members of the NICU team because there was meconium (poo) in Max’s amniotic fluid, and they needed to make sure none of that made its way into his lungs.
I was feeling stuck and in an intense amount of pain when my doctor came up with an idea to get Max through my pelvis. She had another doctor prep to catch the baby and went to grab a towel. She one end and I held the other, and when I had a contraction, we would both pull. This helped me sit up a bit so that Max was being pushed DOWN and out. It felt like I did this for a while, but Mike says that after we got the towel, Max was out in two pushes.
He had a full head of dark hair and long fingers and limbs. His eyes were open from the very first moment and his first cry sounded almost like a “meow.” It definitely didn’t sink in right away that this was MY baby. That I had given BIRTH and experienced LABOR. To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in. Mike was unable to cut the cord because of the issue with the amniotic fluid, but he got to stand next to Max’s warmer and take in the sight of him first.
I had second degree tearing and required what seemed like A LOT of stitches. Worst of all, I could feel it. They eventually numbed me a bit but I’d felt enough to be groaning. The only negative part of my birth was that this is what I was experiencing when they first put Max on my chest for skin to skin, and I wasn’t really in the moment at the start.
He was snuggled in so close to my chin that I couldn’t see him when I looked down. He was already lifting his head and trying to look at me and it was comical as we both struggled to get a good look at each other. I fed him the first time and Mike was able to do some skin to skin before my best friends came in to meet Max. My family also came in to meet him and grab our stuff to take to our recovery room.
We didn’t get to the room until about 8 p.m. and I was STARVING having not eaten since the night before. We ordered a pizza as my family left and we settled in for our first night as a family with our beautiful, beautiful boy.
I can’t believe this was already six weeks ago!
Max is now 8 pounds, 4 ounces, and over 21 inches. He is an excellent eater and even though we’ve been struggling with colic, he is starting to sleep for about five hours at night. He sucks his thumb, smiles and makes the most hilarious faces. In his short life, he has already traveled out of state and sat in the Stanley Cup! He was born the night before the Pens won.
Being a mom is so fun, so amazing, so difficult, and I am so excited to share my journey through motherhood with you here. I may be a writer, but it’s hard to put my feelings for my little boy into words. He is so, so loved.
I’d like to hear how your birth was similar or different from mine. Tell your story in the comments below!