I hope you had a wonderful holiday season 🙂
I’m definitely feeling inspired as far as blogging goes, there are so many things I’m looking forward to sharing! (And it’s not all baby related either…) But when I sat down to think about what I wanted my first post of 2015 to be, I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than Henry’s birth story! And since he is one month old TODAY (fastest month ever, seriously) it seemed like perfect timing 🙂
Disclaimer: First, this post is long…like embarrassingly, unnecessarily long because I didn’t want to leave anything out…so don’t say you weren’t
warned! Second, I felt it was important to be completely honest about my
experience…so if you don’t want to know specifics, you
may want to skip today’s post 😉 Finally, if you’re pregnant…read at
your own risk. When I was pregnant, I feel I got a lot of value out of reading very positive birth stories that made me feel empowered vs. scared about the experience. And although I would describe my overall birth experience as positive, it was definitely not all sunshine and rainbows. So if you’re pregnant and trying to avoid things that might make you nervous about labor, maybe skip it? But it definitely has a happy ending! 🙂
First things first, I was fortunate to have a really great, easy pregnancy right up until the day I went into labor. I know a lot of people get to that point where they’re just over being pregnant and just want the baby to get out…but I really never got there. I was kind of the opposite actually and as much as I was excited to meet the baby, I was also a little sad about my pregnancy being over because it had been such a happy time and I felt really great.
When the midwife checked me at that appointment, she said I was already 3 cms dilated, 80% effaced, the baby was super low in my pelvis, and that she would expect him to come at any time now. She did sweep my membranes at that appointment, which I hoped would get labor started ASAP. Because I was seeing the hospital midwives, it’s actually a group of people vs. one specific person, so that meant whoever was on shift when I went into labor would be the one that would deliver the baby. I didn’t have a problem with that because I had a seen a few of the different midwives throughout my pregnancy and they all share a very similar philosophy when it comes to care and their approach during labor. However, I had spent the most time with the midwife who was running my group appointments and really liked her a lot. She let me know at that 40 week appointment that she would be on shift that Sunday, but that she would be surprised if I didn’t have the baby before then.
The next day (Friday 12/5), I felt like I was finally fully in the mindset of wanting the baby to come. I had brunch with my friends, photographed the nursery, got a pedicure with my mom…and waited. I hadn’t really been having much in the way of Braxton Hicks contractions though, so I wasn’t too sure if labor would start soon or if I still had weeks to go. Saturday morning, my mucous plug came out (gross I know, but like I said, I wanted to share the full story so I don’t forget how this happened for next time!) which made me excited and I wanted to keep encouraging any signs of labor. We went for a walk, I ate a bunch of pineapple, but still no sign of baby!
|I made Cam take these final bump pics between contractions before we left for the hospital 🙂|
Some time after that, the midwife came in the triage room and since it was Sunday, it was the midwife from my group appointments! I was so pumped that the person who I had gotten to know best during my pregnancy was going to be the one to deliver our baby. She said they were getting my room set up and that even though I wasn’t planning on having a water birth, they would still bring the water birth tub into my room so I could labor in there vs. trying to have to use the smaller bathtub if I wanted to get in the water during contractions. She and the student midwife seemed really impressed with how I was handling the contractions that happened while I was in triage. I was pretty surprised that when the contractions came, instead of being loud (which is what I thought my reaction would be, ha!) I got really silent and turned my focus inward to get through each one. One of the things that our instructor used to tell us in prenatal yoga when we would do more challenging poses is that “you can do anything for a minute” and so I just kept telling myself that until each contraction passed!
At some point, I had Cam turn Christmas music on Pandora and that was pretty soothing. I spent some time on the bed as well as moving around the room, sitting on the stability ball, etc. as the contractions kept coming. A little while later, I decided I was ready to get in the tub and so the nurse started getting that ready for me. The contractions were getting stronger and I was eager to get in the water, but unfortunately the water was a little too hot so the nurse kept working to bring the water temp down. After what seemed like forever, the tub was finally ready! (I’m have no idea exactly what time it was by then, but I’m guessing it must have been around 11pm or so at this point?) Getting in the water felt so good, especially because the contractions were getting more intense. I tried my best to just relax into the water while listening to the Christmas music…and in between the contractions, it was actually kind of nice! My nurse was really great about checking in on us, but I really enjoyed that she gave us some space so Cam and I could have a little time alone. After awhile, the contractions were getting more and more intense and I wanted to see how much longer until I could start pushing. I remember telling the nurse that I wanted to get out of the tub at 1am and have the midwife check me to see how much progress I had made. I remember telling myself in my mind if had made it to at least 8cms when they checked me that I could make it the rest of the way without getting an epidural. So I got out of the tub…and after that, my memories start to get a little bit more hazy…
|This is the last photo from before our son was born (sorry if it’s TMI)…and it was pretty much the turning point in my labor where things started to get way more intense and I did not want ANY photos taken 🙂|
The contractions seemed much more painful once I got out of the water, but I got settled on the bed and the midwife came to check my progress. Sure enough, I was at 8cm…so that confirmed my original decision of not getting an epidural because I remember thinking, I’m almost there and it won’t be much longer until the baby is born! I wanted to get back in the tub to keep laboring, but the midwife said that since I wasn’t planning on actually giving birth in the water that it would probably be best to stay out of the water until I could start pushing. I feel like I can barely remember the period of time where I went from 8cms to 10cms; I know the contractions were intense, but I feel like it must have gone kind of quickly? At some point when the midwives checked me, my water broke while they were checking me, but I barely even felt it happening. (Cam said he thought it broke when they checked me and I was at 8cms, but honestly things were kind of a blur at this point!)
However, when my water did break, they noticed that there was some meconium in the fluid and so there was some concern that the baby may swallow some before he came out. They let me know that as a precaution, the pediatric team would be present when he was born just to make sure everything was ok. I honestly wasn’t concerned because they made it seem like no big deal, and at that point, I was starting to be in a lot more pain and so all I was thinking about was pushing the baby out. Eventually though, I did get to 10cms and it was time to start pushing! I tried pushing in quite a few different positions, including in the bathroom. In all our labor classes, they said a lot of people liked to spend some time pushing in the bathroom because it’s easier for your brain to let go and bear down…however, I remember hating pushing in there and it made me feel really panicky. I tried pushing in a few different modified squat positions on the bed, but eventually wound up pushing on my back, mainly because this position allowed me the greatest chance to rest between the contractions.
I remember being in so much pain that I was having trouble speaking or thinking straight, but I do know that an epidural was brought up around this time. I was told that it was still an option for me even though I was fully dilated. However, I didn’t even have an IV in and so the thought of having to wait for the anaesthesiologist and sit still for that sounded worse than just sticking it out. The midwife suggested we try having me lay on my side for just a half hour and if that didn’t do it, then we would talk about how to manage the pain if it was going to take longer to get him in the correct position. I honestly wanted to say that I just wanted to have a C-section at that point because that’s how bad I felt, but I literally couldn’t even get the words out because I felt so terrible. So I laid there through each contraction. At this point, I was not being quiet any more but I was literally screaming through each one. (Also, my Christmas Pandora was still playing the background while this was going on and I definitely should have told someone to turn it off. Pretty sure the entire soundtrack to the Nutcracker played while I was in the worst pain of my life…not ideal, ha!)
After what felt like forever, a half hour had passed. The midwife checked me again and was happy with the progress that had been made with the baby’s position, and so it was time to start pushing again. I was really tired and so the midwife actually had me start pushing in the position in was in, laying on my side. And then…things got ugly. Each time I went to push, I ended up involuntarily throwing up. It was really awful. I hadn’t eaten for hours at this point, but apparently it didn’t matter because I just kept puking. And puking. It takes a little while to get the hang of pushing when you’ve never done it before, and so when I would start pushing and then puke, it would really break my concentration and so I wasn’t making much progress with my pushes at all. The midwives and my nurse were so amazing at just staying calm and bringing fresh pillows and towels and trying to clean me up in between pushes, but man, it was disgusting. I remember looking at the clock and seeing it was some time early Monday morning, but it felt like I was in a time warp. I was worried about how much time was going by, as well as how much longer this was going to take.
Feeling his body finally come out after all that pain and exertion was a feeling unlike any other. It was a huge sense of relief and I couldn’t believe I did it! However, when his head came out, the midwife realized that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, and so that’s why she helped get the rest of his body out as quickly as possible. Once he came out, the midwife handed him right over to the pediatrician
and I only caught a glimpse of him for a split second before he was
taken across the room, and I just remember seeing that he had a lot of
hair! Because the cord was wrapped around his neck, they had to cut it
right away (I didn’t even realize this was happening at the time because
they did it so quickly) I guess he was doing more grunting instead of crying
when he came out and because they already had concerns about him
swallowing meconium, that’s why they had to take him over to the little
warming table across the room from my bed to make sure his breathing was stabilized.
And that’s when the feelings of relief I had over him being out were instantly replaced with concern over whether or not he was ok. When he came out, I was basically delirious from having been in so much pain and it seemed like everything happened really, really fast and so it’s tough to remember exactly what happened and when it happened. I know Cam was over by the pediatricians and taking some photos in those first few minutes after he was born, while I was just laying there waiting for them to bring me my baby. (I asked Cam about what was happening during this time because I was so
out of it I barely remember anything. He said I just kept asking over
and over again if the baby was ok and kept saying that I just wanted him
to be ok) According to the time stamps on the photos on my iPhone, they did bring him over to me for me to see him less than 10 minutes after he was born and I finally got to get a better look at him. I remember thinking he was so cute and I was surprised that I instantly saw resemblance to my family in his face. (I actually initially thought that that he looked kind of like baby pictures I had seen of my sister) But I didn’t get to hold him yet as they still needed to make sure his breathing was under control.
|Cam took these right after he was born 🙂|
As this point, I can’t remember if Henry was still in the room or if they took him across the hall, but I know that pediatricians were taking the necessary steps to ensure that he was breathing ok. While this was going on, the midwife and midwife student worked quickly to get my placenta out. This was super annoying since instead of cuddling my baby while that was happening, he was apart from me and I had nothing to do other than focus the how uncomfortable what they were doing was. Delivering the placenta isn’t painful compared to delivering the baby, but having them kneed on my stomach to make sure it came out quickly wasn’t the most pleasant experience either.
make sure it’s waterproof…I definitely didn’t get the memo on this, ha!)
After I got to hold him for a few minutes, they had to take him across the hall to get him ready to go to the NICU, since they wanted to continue to monitor him. It was definitely sad…but I was also so worn out that point, plus I wanted to make sure that he was healthy. Also, despite his birth being really hard, I made it through relatively unscathed
and only had to get two small stiches after he was born. I was super
thankful about that since I know things could have been much worse given
that he was such a big baby 🙂 And it was actually worked out really, really well because Henry was born at 5:39am and both my nurse and the midwives were going off shift at 7am that morning. The fact that they were able to be there through my whole labor, his birth, and to make sure everything was stabilized afterwards really meant so much to me. They were all so incredibly amazing and really made me feel like I could do it when I didn’t believe in myself. They were kind, calm, patient, and caring and made me feel like I was strong, even at my weakest point. It was especially meaningful to have my midwife, Elizabeth (on my left in the photo below), who I had gotten to know over my pregnancy, be the one to deliver our son. I can’t ever really put into words how much I appreciate her (and the midwife student and my nurse) for really getting me through the most intense experience of my life, and I honestly don’t think I could have done it without their support.
Not long after he was born, Cam went down to see our parents who were waiting and told them the good news. My parents came in to see me, and I was still pretty emotional at that point. I was happy to see them though after what I had just gone through. My parents, along with the rest of our families, knew before the baby was born that we were almost 100% certain that we were going to name him Henry. Cam and I both really like that name, and it was also Cam’s great grandfather and great uncle’s name, so we both like that it has a family connection. But when my parents came in to see me after the baby was born, that’s when I told my dad that we were having Henry’s middle name be William, after him. Not only is William my dad’s name, but it was also his dad’s name and his grandfather’s name and so I thought it would be special for our son’s middle name to have a connection to my family, especially since my dad didn’t have any sons. (Plus Cameron and I just like the name William too) My dad had no idea that we were planning to do that, so he was really touched and it was really special to be able to surprise him.
After that, Cam’s parents came to say hello, and then all the grandparents went with Cam to see the baby, who was still across the hall getting ready to go to the NICU. They had him hooked up to a CPAP machine at that point to help with his breathing, but I was happy that our families got to see him (even though I was sad I wasn’t there to witness that first moment because I was still not quite able to get out of bed at that point) The rest of the afternoon is kind of a blur – the baby was taken to the NICU for monitoring and Cam and I transferred from the labor floor to the mama/baby floor. We took a nap and had a meal (both of which were so nice after labor!) and then spent the rest of the afternoon down in the NICU with our baby. By 5:30pm that day, Henry was doing well and was able to be released back to our room, where he remained for the rest of our time in the hospital 🙂 Although it wasn’t ideal for him to have to spend time in the NICU, it really gives me so much more compassion for families whose babies are in there for much longer. Our sweet Henry was only there for less than 12 hours, but I realize there are so many other families that are dealing with far more traumatic situations, and my heart goes out to them so much more now.
|Cam took this picture from the NICU of the sunrise over Mt. Hood the morning Henry was born:)|
Henry’s birth was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and it really taught me so many things. I think that during my pregnancy, a part of me secretly thought I was going to go in and be one of those women who has a natural birth like it’s no big deal, and that it wouldn’t be all that painful. Well, I was wrong. However, on the day we were discharged from the hospital, the midwife on shift at that time came to check on me before we left. We talked about my birth experience and how I felt about it, and at that point, the pain was still pretty fresh in my mind. I told her it was harder than I thought it would be be and I was just really glad it was over. I think she really helped provide some great perspective on the whole experience because she reminded me that even though it was really hard, at the end of the day I did it and there is a lot of value in that. When it really mattered, I showed up and gave it everything I had and that’s really something I should feel proud of. It reminded me that there really is something so worthwhile and beautiful about enduring pain and hardship to reach such an amazing end goal. She also talked about how as a mother, there will be a lot of hard days ahead where I’ll probably doubt myself and feel like I can’t do it. That’s when I can look back on this birth experience and really draw strength from it, knowing that I can get through incredibly tough experiences. She also talked about the importance of sharing this birth story with Henry one day in the context of letting him know that he is so loved and is so important to me that I would get through any amount of pain and hardship in order to bring him into the world.
(That’s also just another example of what I like about the whole midwifery care philosophy because they really provide such awesome support and recognize that birth is such a huge life experience for a woman to go through)
At the end of the day, I do feel happy I had a natural birth, even though it was really, really tough. Obviously the most important thing was that our baby boy was born and it honestly wouldn’t have mattered to me how he came out, as long as he was OK. However, the fact that I was able to birth a 9 and 1/2 pound baby without any drugs is something I am pretty proud of!
And although I am happy I was able to bring our son into the world, I couldn’t have done it without Cam’s support. He was so great caring for me throughout my pregnancy with Henry, and before the birth he was really adamant that he wanted to take an active role in supporting me during labor. When I was in labor, he never left my side (except for the few times when I asked him to go get me something, ha!) and as cheesy as it sounds, he really was my rock throughout the whole experience. He just stayed really calm and kept telling me what a good job I was doing and how much he loved me. When I was at my worst, throwing up and screaming, he was right there next to me holding my hand and believing in me, and I couldn’t have gotten through it without him. It wasn’t until after labor was over that he finally broke down and let me know just how hard it was for him seeing me in so much pain and I know it wasn’t easy for him staying strong for my sake while labor was going on. (Plus, he did admit that at one point I puked on him…definitely don’t remember that, ha!) He has continually told me over the past month just how proud he is of me, which has really mean a lot to me and going through such an intense experience together has had a really amazing impact on our relationship. I am so thankful he was there for me during Henry’s birth, I love you Cameron 🙂
We stayed in the hospital for two days after Henry was born, and had a really positive experience while we were there. All the nurses and everyone who cared for us was really great, and it was a nice way to start our life as a family of three! Looking back at these photos, Henry has already changed so much! When babies are first born, they can definitely be kind of puffy, for lack of a better word. After all, going through birth is kind of traumatic for the baby too, plus they do lose some of that fluid after they’re born. When we were in the hospital with Henry, I just remember I couldn’t get over how cute he was…but I feel like he has gotten cuter every single day over the past month. (I know all parents say that, but I swear, it’s true!) Here are a few more photos from our time in the hospital…it seems like forever ago now!
|Henry with his parents and grandparents on the day he was born 🙂|
|Cameron still sporting his visitor badge from the NICU 🙂|
|Really glad my parents could be there from Michigan for Henry’s birth 🙂|
|Cameron and his parents 🙂|
|Me and the grandmas|
|Henry and his (middle) namesake|
|Some of the flowers we got in the hospital 🙂|
|Little man getting ready to go home from the hospital…he looks so tiny!|
|I love this little giraffe outfit so much 🙂|
|The picture when we finally left the hospital…after taking a million pictures walking out, ha!|
(These are just a few of the pictures from our “real” camera…I have a
million more of Henry’s sweet little face from our hospital stay on my
cell phone…and all the days after. But I figured I’d keep those just for me to look at when I want to cry about how fast the time is going…)
If you’re still reading this post, you get a gold star 🙂 I realize that it’s crazy (insanely) long and that no one really cares about all these details as much as I do. But I wanted to share my story all the same and I’m glad I have it written down while it’s still (semi) fresh in my mind. (Also, please excuse any typos/grammatical errors – life with a newborn hasn’t left much time for proofreading this novel!) Thanks so much for all your kind words about our sweet Henry, I really all the love this past month!