This post contains birth words and terms that may make some people feel uncomfortable.
Let me start off by saying that pregnancy sucked. I threw up three to five times a day for the first 20 weeks, and it slowly decreased to about once or twice a week by the end of pregnancy. It was sort of like a twisted game of bingo: how many random places can I puke? (The answer is “a lot” if you were wondering.) At some point during the joyous time of growing a tiny human I developed high blood pressure. Despite the multiple weekly appointments to harass the baby in to moving around and pretending to breathe, we succeeded in not finding out the sex of the little one until birth.
On Halloween I found out that our baby would be coming early. Because mom guilt starts during pregnancy, I cried and cried because I felt I had failed my baby. Derek was unable to make it to that appointment because of work commitments, so I settled on a hug from my OB. She told me that every week from there on out would be a bonus, and she also put me on modified bed rest. (This is a fancy term for “don’t do anything that stresses you out.”) At this point I also stopped working. I spent the next three weeks mostly at home folding baby laundry, binge watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and crying about having to sell our amazing Fleetwood Mac Tickets to an internet stranger.
My induction was scheduled for November 24. At the last appointment before eviction we discovered that my cervix was high and tight and therefore completely unfavorable. Because of this the date was bumped back to Sunday night to give some extra time to get my lady bits in gear. We were to arrive at Good Sam on Sunday, November 23, at 7p.m.
We were late. Turns out that Trans-Siberian Orchestra was playing two shows at the Rose Garden and traffic was backed up. And really, it wouldn’t be our life if something like this didn’t happen. When we finally arrived at L&D, Deb, the charge nurse was waiting for us and showed us to our room. Our nurse for the evening, Ashley, had a difficult time starting my IV, so Deb came back and got that going. I made sure to request that they cover it because there was no way I could have looked at that thing coming out of my arm for any length of time. After the IV was in they hooked me up to the monitors and put in the Cervidil. Then we waited. I didn’t get much rest because the baby wouldn’t stay on the monitor (unsurprising), and the baby has to be on the monitor or they must remove the Cervidil. Thankfully, the night before we went in I had the best night’s sleep of my entire pregnancy.
The next morning – Monday – the nurses checked me and while my cervix was a bit softer, there was not much progress. I was SO discouraged, likely because I don’t handle a lack of sleep well. After that, my mom showed up. When my OB came back I told her that I was done and wanted a c-section. Thankfully, she is awesome and told me that she didn’t think that is what I actually wanted but would put me on the schedule for Tuesday morning and that we would try something else first. The decision was made to try prostaglandin gel near my cervix and start a very low Pitocin drip. Derek had gone out to get Starbucks, but about halfway through my drink and sandwich, I ran to the bathroom and threw all of that up. I started to feel definite contractions a few hours later. Early that afternoon I was crampy, and when I went to the restroom I noticed that I had lost my mucus plug. YAY! Progress! My OB checked my cervix again before she headed home for the day and I was at a one, which was better than nothing but still a little disheartening. I was still scheduled for a c-section the next morning and told that I could not drink much, if anything, after midnight. She told me they may want to break my water that evening, told me she would see me tomorrow, told me to eat dinner, and left. Derek and I were chatting and she came back to let me know that the “favorite” anesthesiologist was on duty that night and that if I wanted an epidural I should get one before he left at 7am. Around 10pm I called my awesome overnight nurse, Megan, and she put in the call to anesthesiology. I signed a bunch of paperwork and the anesthesiologist was up a bit later. He made sure and double sure and sure one more time that Derek was okay staying in the room with me. Apparently some partners/support people actually faint while the epidural is being placed and catching them is not the job of the doctors or hospital staff. Derek, always unflappable, stayed right there with me. The position you have to assume to get an epi placed is uncomfortable and the feeling of the needle in my spine was a bit too much. After about 20 seconds I started to feel cool and clammy like I might pass out, and I asked Megan to blow on my face, which surprisingly helped.
Then it was over. The bed was lowered, and a bad choice invariably followed. On a scale of one to invading Russia in the winter, allowing a pregnant woman with a just-placed epidural to stand on her own is pretty high up there. But it happened. And yes, I fell. I knew it was coming so I curled forward because FOR THE LOVE OF TOM CRUISE I WAS NOT RIPPING THAT EPIDURAL OUT. Derek and Megan freaked out, and I laughed. They helped me back in to the bed. Not long after that I began vomiting uncontrollably. I learned then that an epidural can cause your blood pressure to drop rapidly, and the fact that I was on meds to lower my blood pressure already did not help that. So, up came the dinner that my mom and doctor insisted that I eat. Megan then said they thought breaking my water would help get things going along, and also allow me to rest because they could monitor baby internally. I politely declined, because I know that once your water is broken you’re on the clock, and I wanted to see if I dilated a bit more.
Monday night was slightly more restful, but still not amazing. Obstinate baby was still running away from the monitors as it had for the 37 weeks leading up to that time. I was having somewhat regular contractions at this time but I could only tell because I could see it on the monitor or notice my belly was tight. Tuesday morning Dr. Miles came back and checked my cervix again. I was at a three! YES! She then told me she thought that breaking my water would help get things going. Since my body finally seemed to understand what was happening, I agreed. If you have never had your water broken, it feels like mountains of jello are pouring out of you and it. is. disgusting. They put the monitors on the baby and my uterus, and we chilled out for a while. Amber, the nurse who would be there for the birth, brought me cups upon cups of cold apple juice and even held my hand when I needed her. I am and will forever be immensely grateful for her calming and helpful presence during that time.
As the morning and early afternoon went on, I became increasingly uncomfortable. Derek and my mom had left to go on a walk and grab some food but right as I was going to call him and ask him to come back, they walked in the door. Around 2pm I was checked again, this time I was at an EIGHT. I had gone from a two to an eight in less than six hours. At this point I also fully recognized that my epidural was not working. Anesthesiology came up and they gave me a boost of some good stuff, but it wasn’t long before that wore off.
The rest of labor is a little blurry. I remember being on my right side with my leg up around an exercise ball that was shaped like a jelly bean. During this, my mom walked in and I screamed at her to get out. (Sorry mom!) My face began to tingle and that is when my awesome nurse informed me that it’s because I was hyperventilating. It’s amazing how few pain management techniques I remembered from child birthing class when the time came. She coached me through my breathing. At another point I remember telling the nurses that “the baby is going to come out of my asshole!” They assured me that the baby wouldn’t but the feeling was normal and was a good sign that it was almost time to push. I stayed that way for a bit and labored down for a bit and then it happened: every single fiber of my being needed to push. It was an instinct that was incredibly primal and hard to describe, but I knew it was time. Thankfully, my OB rushed in right as I was saying “I need to push, oh my god, I need to pushhhhhhh nowwwww.”
Now, I always thought that women were full of shit when they said that pushing feels better. But for those of you who don’t have kids, let me tell you, they are absolutely and 100% correct. I rolled on to my back and my doctor checked me really quick. I think she mentioned that there was still a little cervix in the way but that there would be time for that to change. She gave me a rundown of how pushing worked: when a contraction starts, will every muscle in your body to force that baby out of my vagina to a count of ten. If I was still contracting, start again. Relax between contractions (she must have a side gig as a comedian because that was just the most HILARIOUS thing I had ever heard).
I think I started pushing around 4:30. I remember a nurse sticking their head in about a patient of another physician in her practice being there for observation. Dr. Miles looked back at her and said she would be 45 minutes to an hour. I looked at the clock. It was 5pm. So she figured by six, this baby would be out. During most contractions I got three pushes to the count of ten. The break in between them was incredibly short…maybe 10 to 15 seconds before the next one came barreling on. I only spoke a handful of times: either “how’s baby?” or “I CAN’T.” Everyone assured me that I could. The nurses and my doctor were very encouraging. Every “I can’t” was met with a “you can and you are doing a great job.” This was awesome until they started with the “We can see the head! The head is right there!” This baby had a gigantic head, which we knew from the litany of ultrasounds and scans, but this was also confirmed by the worst part of birth: the ring of fire. I knew precisely where his head was because I felt that my vagina and anus would just morph in to one large hole from which my bobble-headed bundle of joy would emerge. All I could think was “tell me when you can see the damn toes!” but I couldn’t find it within me to get the words out.
I was exhausted in a way that I had never experienced before. The baby was not out. I was still pushing. And sweating. And pushing some more. Derek was counting to ten and I wanted to kill him. Then I pushed again, and the head was out! Now, my understanding is that there was some maneuvering involved to get the baby turned in a way that would permit safe passage of the shoulders, but at this point I was not opening my eyes at all so I can’t be 100% sure. I pushed a few more times and out came the rest of the baby. His time of birth was 5:44pm so my doctor was correct in her estimate. I opened my eyes to see my doctor hold the baby up with his butt to me, then I laid back down and closed my eyes. She turned the baby so that Derek could see and let me know the news.
“It’s a BOY!” Derek said. “We have a boy!”
“Boy…Is he a Harlan? Is that his name?”
Derek just nodded at me with tears in his eyes.
I rested for a moment again while they cut his cord and then they placed the baby on me. There was some difficulty removing the monitor from his head (he has a good scar there). The feeling of having this little person in my arms after hours of pushing and days of laboring and weeks of vomiting and months of worrying about everything that could go wrong with him and me and us…it was absolutely incredible. Then, out came the placenta which felt even more disgusting than having my water broken, which is funny because it’s really a pretty magical organ. (As an aside, despite the high blood pressure, my placenta was extremely healthy.) I realized that something was going on with my frankengina because my doctor kept wiping and needing the light closer. There was a lot of blood and she was having a difficult time determining the source. I believe at this time I asked her if I was going to die, which made no sense because there was no great sense of urgency with what she was doing, but having just given birth I got a pass at logic, okay? She located a massive internal laceration and stitched it up, in addition to the external tears in both directions. Birth is so glamorous.
Once that was done, they were cleaning up the room so that we could relax a bit as a family. Derek ran out to let them know that baby was here and we were all okay, and that we would have them back in a bit. It was during this time that they dropped the bag that had been hanging on the end of the bed. This bag catches the gamut of fluids that come out during child birth. I was completely oblivious to all of this happening because I was holding my son! I DID IT! The room cleared out and we waited for the baby nurse. Derek got to hold his son for the first time while we waited to have him looked at. We waited a long time because it turns out the baby born three minutes after H in the next room had some issues (but was okay!). They weighed him (8lbs 5oz), measured him (21.5 inches), took footprints, and did all of the other things that they do to newborns. Then Derek went out and got my parents. It is worth mentioning that my parents are the PERFECT visitors after giving birth. I offered to let them hold the baby and the declined. They took a few pictures, swore their secrecy, and headed home after about 30 minutes.
We spent a bit more time as a family, notified a few close relatives and friends of his birth, and then Derek did what any amazing and supportive husband would do: he went to the closest 24 Subway at midnight and got food. I had observed the “no lunchmeat” rule during pregnancy but craved Subway. I was starving after delivery and never has any food ever tasted so good or been so appreciated. Then my first post partum nurse, Nikki, came in to check on me. She took out my catheter and let me walk around. I went in to the bathroom where she gave me a sponge bath and I was so incredibly humbled and grateful for her help. While we were doing this they brought in a recovery bed which was significantly more comfortable than the labor bed. She helped Derek change his first diaper and tried to show us both how to swaddle multiple times which was ultimately an exercise in futility. She also calmed us when H started coughing and gagging. There was some leftover amniotic fluid that he was struggling to get out but she assured us that it was normal and made us feel at ease. I got a few spurts of rest that night but nothing significant.
I didn’t sleep much between when we went in and Wednesday night. My nurse on Wednesday evening was great; her name was Amanda. She made it so that I was finally able to get my IV out and shower like a regular human! Around midnight I was laying wide awake while Derek and H were happily asleep. I went in to the hallway right as she happened to be walking by and burst in to tears because I was so exhausted and couldn’t sleep. She brought some ambien and then offered to take H to the nursery so they could do his hearing test and snuggle him while I got a little rest. The brought him back in around 4:30am. That morning we got our things together and prepared to leave the hospital. In all of this excitement I had forgotten to eat since an early dinner on Wednesday night and I was very light headed, so they brought me some juice and two protein bars. We put a onesie on our little guy, buckled him safely in to his seat for the first time, put our bags on the cart, and they wheeled me out. The whole time I was thinking “holy crap, they’re going to just let us take him home like this!”
And that, my friends, is how my crazy, spirited, hilarious little boy came earthside.