Ok this is attempt number…..5 million….. to write. Seriously! This little boy is going to eat me out of house and home at age 1 month! AND, he really doesn’t like to nap……ugh! I know this will change as he grows older – I just hope for the better. Whew!
Life is humming along. I must admit that I love being a stay at home Mom. Yes, changing diapers (especially since our little guy likes to go frequently) and feeding every 2 hours (or less as he likes to cluster feed at night), can be a bit overwhelming at times. I mean, I have to pee and eat at some point. But ultimately, how could you not love this little person! And his cry face is oh so adorable too 🙂
I received a lot of emails and comments to my last post asking to write-up our birth story. I have realized that I can’t say we need to help prepare mothers-to-be and not share our story. Mine is not tragic, it was traumatic for me because as much as I read, I just never wrapped my mind around what giving birth would do to ME. Rightfully the focus was on the baby.
SO here it is:
DISCLAIMER. If you are squeamish, uneasy, don’t like gore, and are thinking of getting pregnant – read at your own risk. This is a bit more TMI than you may like. You’ve been warned. It’s also super long – as a first time Mom, I hope it helps other first timers realize – it’s confusing going into labor! It is not always so clear! And line up help for post-labor support! DO IT!
I had been having contractions irregularly for weeks. As my due date neared, I was stalled at 3 centimeters dilated despite these mild contractions. Throughout them, I could walk and talk with no real issues. The nerve pain on my back was another story. Needless to say, I was SO ready to have this baby – but ultimately wanted him to come when he was ready and NOT be induced. I prayed this would all happen naturally.
On my due date, July 30th, I went to the OB/GYN for my weekly appointment after a brief stop in Triage (well, I wasn’t sure if my water broke…….no really! It can be confusing. Better safe than sorry!). We discussed induction for later the following week (after 41 weeks). I felt so deflated. I asked the MD what I could do to help more naturally push my contractions into a regular cycle. She recommended more walking (really the best) and for my membranes to be stripped. This procedure separates the bag of water from the cervix in a hope that it will kick-start the production of hormones necessary to encourage your body to progress into labor. It took two seconds and was no more painful for me than your yearly exam and pap smear (I’ve heard other women say it hurt – just like everything else in pregnancy – everybody is different!).
That night Joe and I decided to have a date night (one of our last for a while) and visited Pacific Rim, a restaurant in Ann Arbor. I had heard a rumor they had a soup that could initiate labor. When I called to inquire, the host didn’t miss a beat and verified that he had heard their coconut curry soup can have that effect. It’s an old family recipe. And it was delicious! But spicy! Yet, we went home and slept peacefully….
I woke up Wednesday morning feeling like – well, normal. No big indicators I was going to go into active labor. Joe left for work and I headed out to our gym to walk on the treadmill. Oh that treadmill! I was so sick of it! So after 40 minutes, I decided walking around the block would be good – I did 3 laps. When I got home, I decided to get dressed for the day.
INDICATOR ONE – Bloody show.
Upon getting dressed I discovered some moderate spotting and mucus….my plug (which looked like snot) had fallen out three weeks prior – but the MD stated that mucus could continue to be produced and close to labor is usually mixed with blood as the cervix begins to stretch (the cervix is very blood rich! As it stretches open, vessels can burst and you get the bloody show)……I thought to myself, “Hmmm. This might actually happen naturally! Come on body! Let’s go!” The bloody show continued allllllll day! After no period for 9 months….It kind stunk to have to wear a pad.
INDICATOR TWO – Defined contractions of the uterine muscle.
After watching some TV and eating lunch, I went for walk #2. I literally could not sit still. I felt so compelled to push my body further into labor. I did NOT want to be induced the following Wednesday! On my second lap I felt my lower abdomen contract around the baby – LITERALLY! I could feel my tummy tighten and see a more defined outline around the uterus. We’re not talking seeing feet and arms, but my stomach resembled a hard peanut….not the soft round Santa tummy I had been sporting. After about a minute, my stomach softened.
I returned home and decided I should start timing these contractions. Yes, there is an App for that. I downloaded one a few weeks earlier that was super easy to use and would even tell you the average time between contractions and the average length over an hour, 6 hours, and one day time frame. These new contractions – every 15 minutes. But they didn’t hurt….really.
INDICATOR THREE – Increase in frequency and intensity
Joe arrived home around 6pm and we ate dinner. Nothing fancy. I noted to him what had happened during the day. At about 8pm, I noticed on my timer that my contractions were now about 8-10 minutes apart. Joe stated that we should really try to get sleep now while the contractions were not so painful. Good idea honey! It could be a long Thursday so rest would be best. Off to bed we go!
I woke up at 9pm to a cramp…..like a period cramp. I hadn’t felt that in 9 months. Oooph! I hit the timer. Laying in the dark bedroom I could hear Joe breathing and thought, “This might be it. Our last night just the two of us.”
9:09 – oohch. Timer
9:11- oooh k. Timer
9:18 – Um hmmm. Timer
9:22 – oh woah. Timer
Ok this is different. Each contraction had a defined start, peak, and end. I could feel the dull cramp pain wrap from my back all the way around my lower abdomen. And my stomach muscles were hard during each one. Every 4-5 minutes……WOAH! What!?
I timed them for an hour. They didn’t go away. At about 10:45, I called Triage. The Midwife asked me a bunch of questions – frequency (4-5 minutes), intensity (about a 7 out of 10), and if my water had broken (nope). She confirmed that at this time, I should come in. They would have a room waiting. “Take your time. Don’t rush. We don’t want you to have an emergency if you have an accident on the way.” She’s right! I have some time. First time labors can be 12-15 hours long! It’s going to be a long night.
“Joe, we need to go. They are 4 minutes apart and I am scared.” Tears started to fall. Holy cow, I was in labor. It hit me then that this was actually happening. I was actually going to push a human out of my body.
“What? Now? Are you sure? Don’t be scared.”
Not my husband’s best moment, but then again, I just woke him from a deep sleep at 11pm to say I was in labor. We gathered keys and wallets, phones and cameras.
As we piled into the car another contraction hit. Breathe…breathe…breathe. Humor is always good during times like these:
Joe turned on the radio. Our playlist (totally at random) on the ride included:
“This Girl is on Fire,” “Hurts So Good,” “Up All Night to Get Lucky,” and “Sexual Healing”…..um REALLY?! Thanks for the labor track midnight DJs. After the last song, Joe decided he could add a tune. Remember that Full House episode where Uncle Jessie had to have his appendix out when Becky went into labor and he sang a song in his drug induced state??? Yep. My husband did the same thing – except he didn’t need his appendix out and was not on drugs….just pure adrenaline.
INDICATOR FOUR – First time Mom’s have no idea what labor is really like and assume they have all the time in the world…….
As we neared Ann Arbor and the hospital, Joe inquired, “Hey, if this could take several hours, can I stop to get a Red Bull. I’m exhausted.” My husband had been working two jobs in the weeks leading up to this day…so tired was not a surprise. “Sure! I’m fine. They are still 4 minutes apart. We have some time.”
Joe pulled into the BP station down the street from the hospital and ran inside. I sat in the car, breathing through another contraction. I’m sure crazier things have happened in this parking lot in a college town. Right? No. Hmmm.
…wait, what does my timer say..
11:44 – ooooh boy!
11:45 – another one… really? So close?
11:48 – this seems. closer.
11:52 – ooooh we have got to go!!!!
Joe jumped back in the car. “Joe, they are 2-3 minutes apart. Get me there now!” Joe looked at me and suddenly it became serious. No more song lyrics, it was time to go into coach mode.
We arrived at the hospital and Joe parked the car. “Can you walk in or should I find a wheelchair?” said Joe as he grabbed our overnight bags – it was clear we would be staying the night. “I’m good. Walking is good. They say that helps progress labor. Let’s go.” ***Mom’s to be. GET A WHEELCHAIR. For the love of Dog! I hobbled my way in stopping during each contraction (now every 2 minutes). As we arrived at Triage, the RN and Midwife escorted me to an exam room – in a wheelchair.
Now, we chose the local teaching hospital (nationally ranked with a brand spanking new LDR unit). As I got out of the wheelchair, a Resident walked in to ask me about the contractions. NOTE TO NEW RESIDENTS – it is HARD to talk and answer your questions DURING contractions…..Just cool your jets! Or ask the partner. Joe could have answered those questions and felt helpful. He eventually jumped in when the Resident didn’t seem to get the clue. Poor thing. Newbie.
Between contractions I hoisted myself on to the exam table after changing into the lovely hospital gown. As I leaned back to lay down…..”POP!” Gushhhhhhhh.
I looked at Joe whose face looked perplexed. Yes. That was my water breaking! We actually heard it! And then……
HOLY S&$^!!!!!!!!! I immediately lunged for Joe’s hand. The contraction pain was so strong I could not breathe. No wonder they told us in the childbirth class that the partner should remind the woman to BREATHE!
And then AGAIN! The RN and Midwife immediately lifted my gown to check me – 3 centimeters and 90% effaced. The RN immediately began to hook me up to monitors and scooted out of the room to check on which LDR room I’d be in. And to start filling the tub up with water – my pain management request. Ten minutes later, I was rolled down the hallway to our room. Mind you, the contractions were now 1 minute apart. And STRONG.
As we entered the room, my nurse appeared and stated that the tub was ready if I wanted to get in. I could not remove my clothes fast enough…..Poor Joe asked if I wanted my bathing suit top. Um at this point, modesty was left at the door. I was in labor and didn’t really give a dang what I looked like or who saw what.
It was a little after 12:30 as Joe helped me climb into the tub. OH HEAVEN! The warm water was a God send! Each contraction felt more manageable. On all fours, I leaned over the edge of the tub. At that time I realized I was vocalizing during contractions as I held on to Joe’s hands. Yes, we are talking deep moans. It was the only thing that seemed to help my body breathe and control the wave of a contraction. Again, DO WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO. NO ONE WILL JUDGE YOU.
“Oooooooooh. Joe. I need to go to the bathroom,” I stated during a contraction around 1am. “Ok. I’ll ask the nurse what to do. Um, excuse me. She said she needs to … um… poop,” said my husband tactfully.
From outside the bathroom I heard, “Poop or push?” said the nurse………….OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I READ ABOUT THIS!!!!
MOTHER’s TO BE – pushing feels like the biggest poop you have ever had. It’s the same muscles.
Joe helped me climb out of the warm water and waddle over the bed. The Resident appeared to check me. 6 centimeters and fully effaced.
OHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! Ok. This contraction was an 11 out of 10. And had the addition of pressure. I sat up on the edge of the bed to use gravity and leaning into Joe’s abdomen. I began to cry…..and panic. I. Can’t. Do. This!
My birth plan had been to do this naturally – no meds. Up to this point, I was doing just that. But this pain was ridiculous. I could hardly breathe and panic set in. NOT GOOD. I looked at Joe and said, “Shenandoah.” Our code word. Joe turned to the nurse and asked if she could page Anesthesiologist. I wanted an epidural. Joe turned back and asked if I was for real. I nodded. He held me and said, “You are doing good. Goal is to have this baby – and for you to be healthy.” I love him for not making me feel bad about abandoning our plan.
The nurse paged the team. “I’ll ask the Attending to come in to check you as well while we wait.” She proceeded to have me and Joe gown up for the Epidural. Each contraction pulsed through my body – toes to head. Joe literally became the only thing holding me up, my muscles were maxed out on pain. Time seemed to creep by…. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Holy S*&^!
The Attending arrived just as I belted out a deep scream (I really can’t describe the noises – I was NOT in control of my body at this point. The noises I was making – totally primeval.) Mariah Carey would have been impressed with the octaves I was hitting. Anyone in the hallway outside our door would have been – scared.
9 centimeters, totally effaced, and …… crowning. WHAT!!!!!!!???? Time check – 2:30am. My mind could not process what was happening. While a fast labor is good because it is over soon, you are not able to process the pain and prepare mentally for pushing.
The Attending, who I can’t praise enough, calmly stated that I was going to have the baby soon – too soon for an epidural. She immediately turned into a calm coach. She eased me and Joe into position. As my next contraction began, I felt it……. My body was going to push this baby out. I was not in control. I could not stop this train. I could join it or else. Ok. Breathe. Don’t panic!
The Attending, noting that my body was beginning to push the baby further out, asked me to push. I did – or so I thought. But I wasn’t pushing with my body. I was panicking. “Erin, focus on my voice. You can do this. We are going to help you,” she said. “Do you feel this (As she pushed my vagina towards my back and the bed below)? Push towards this. Use these muscles. Like when you have a bowel movement. Just push!”
One, two, three. PUSH!!!!! I pushed, rocking the baby’s head further down and under the pelvic bone. For over an hour. At some point an oxygen mask was on my face. The Attending had me try pushing lying on my side, pushing partially standing up, pushing while pulling on a towel wrapped around a bar above me….anything to move this baby along. But still….not enough. An ultrasound in triage had shown that Little Man was rotated sideways. Not ideal to fit through your pelvis. Additionally, the ultrasound had not been able to determine the exact position of his head as he had dropped so low into my pelvis.
At around 4:15am the Attending stated that after pushing for two hours, my body may be exhausted. She mentioned the dreaded C-word. NO. I did not want a C-section. I had to get this baby out! I recall staring at the ceiling, breathing in the O2 pumping into the mask on my face and thinking, “You’ve come this far. This is all up to you. You HAVE to do this. There is no going back.”
The next contraction began to build, ” Ok. I’m ready. Now!” I said as I took a deep breath and PUSH! “Great! Erin, keep it up. That was great!” Said the Attending. Second push. Third push. The Attending turned to the Resident and the nurse. I have no idea what they were talking about, but Joe reports that within minutes there were 8 more people in our room. The baby bassinet lights went on. The nurses brought over gowns and gear for the Attending. We were getting really close.
“Ok. Erin, his head is almost out. You need to give really deep, concentrated pushes during the next contraction. Once the head is out, you are in the home stretch. You can do this,” said our Attending.
Next contraction began. Ok. Push one! Push two! Push – OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!! No meds means – You feel everything. I knew then that something happened. I knew his head was out. I had felt it. The Ring of Fire. The Attending and nurses began to scramble. The Attending asked me to push one more time and grabbed scissors…..WHAT!? Why?
Push!!!!!! And then…..at 4:47am
There was this warm, slimy, oh so perfect human lying on my chest. I had just given birth to a baby. All I could say was, “Oh my God!” I looked at Joe. He was in shock. He just stared at our son. The Attending asked if he wanted to cut the cord. The nurses came over to begin rubbing the liquid off of Samson. “Oh my God!”
Wait…. He’s not crying. Why is he not crying?
After a few minutes and several people looking him over while lying on my chest, our nurse reported that they needed to take him to be looked at. The Pediatric NP took him from my chest and carried him to the bassinet. “This is the second one tonight. It can be so risky when that happens,” she stated.
The reason the Attending had grabbed scissors and the reason it took 2 hours to push him out – the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. She had to cut it as he came out to allow him to breathe.
I told Joe to follow him. After a good rub down and some O2, I heard a faint cry. Thank God!
Then it hit me. Someone was rubbing on my abdomen. The doctors were all congregated at the base of my bed in deep discussion. The Attending asked our nurse to page the OR. What OR? I just gave birth. I don’t need the C-section.
The Attending walked up to the head of my bed as she lowered it down. The nurse announced that OR 2 was ready and would be waiting. Why was OR 2 waiting?
“You’ve experienced a tear. It’s deep and has impacted not only the muscles but most likely nerves as well. The tear extends from your vagina almost totally through to your annus.” Said the Attending. “We need to get you to an OR to stop the bleeding and to repair the tear.”
“Wait. I wanted to breastfeed. Can’t it be repaired here?” I said (as though I’m totally an MD and aware of what was happening at the foot of my bed).
“Erin, you need to go to the OR. It’s the only way we can fix this. If I could do it here, I would, but that would put you at risk for more difficulties, infection and incontinence later.” Umm, when you put it like that – Tell OR 2 I’m on my way!
Less than 30 minutes after giving birth, I was rolled out of the room. As I was leaving I yelled at Joe, “Do skin-to-skin! Don’t leave him! I love you.”
As we arrived in the OR, I was introduced to the Anesthesiologist (Well, there you are!). I was hoisted up to sit on the side of the bed – OUCH!!!! Pain shot through my body. Ok. This tear must be bad. Immediately, I was told to arch my back as they prepped me for a spinal block. Oh good, two for the price of one……ugh.
After the spinal block I was rotated back on to the OR table, hands out at my side, hospital blanket raised above my chest to block my view. I could feel pressure, but no pain as they worked below. I began to shake and felt nauseous. What was happening?! My mind was still trying to catch up with my body. What just happened? I wanted to see my baby. I couldn’t even recall what his face looked like. Did he open his eyes to see me? Was he really totally ok? I wanted out of this OR immediately. Thankfully the nurses and staff kept talking with me to distract me from what was happening.
At 7am, I was rolled back into our room. It was quiet as the sun began to rise outside the window. Sitting in a chair next to my bed was Joe. He was shirtless with a small little bump covered in a blanket on his chest. It was eerily quiet after all the commotion and OR trip. It was finally peaceful.
Joe lifted Samson from his chest and walked over to my bedside. The nurses helped unwrap me ( I was covered in about 5 blankets to help keep me from shaking and my body heat in). Samson was laid on my chest and wrapped back up in the blankets.
I just stared at him. Wow. I just gave birth. We stood there. Our little family. Just the three of us.
But it didn’t end there. The spinal block began to wear off around 11am. I could wiggle my toes a bit. And then the impact of what had happened to me sank in.
I had a 3rd degree, almost 4th, tear. It stretched from my anus, through my vagina and slightly up to the labia…..It extended so deep that nerve endings in the muscles that help you control your bowel movements and urination were severed. The first day, I had to have a catheter inserted to help me empty my bladder. I could not have a bowel movement. The second day, my body was wracked with pain requiring that I ask for Percocet just so I could rest. I cried. I couldn’t urinate on my own. I couldn’t poop. My body was not working. It wasn’t telling me when my bladder was full or if/when I needed to go. The MDs monitored my urine output. They removed the catheter to see if I could urinate on my own. I couldn’t. It was put back in. I was told that until I could empty my bladder, I really couldn’t go home. After three days and more catheter trials (seriously, it is degrading to have to rely on a nurse to insert a catheter so you can pee because you, just like your infant, can’t control your bowels.) I cried. I wanted my body to work. I wanted to just focus on my baby. I wanted to go home.
On the fourth day, I was able to empty my bladder – by sheer force and mental will power. By this point, I was able to pull myself up to a sitting position at bedside and slowly lift myself out of bed. I made a point to hobble around our room. After a few minutes, I was exhausted and in pain. I was still bleeding and needed to wear a pad the size of an airport runway. I needed help climbing into the tub to take a shower. Joe had to help me put on underwear and pants as I could not bend over. I, like my son, was dependent on others. I cried. I was in shock at how much help I needed. I panicked about going home and having to walk up 20 steps to our second floor condo. I could barely do more than 3 laps around our room – on a flat surface.
Thankfully, my parents had driven up from Virginia and Joe’s family had come to visit. All were willing to help. As we arrived home, I settled into bed and breast-feeding. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, errands, mail, etc. was all done by my parents, Joe’s Mom and my best friend Tran (who arrived a week after Samson was born). I can’t thank them enough. As I recovered myself (literally re-teaching myself how to urinate and have a bowel movement-including one return trip to Triage and two accidents), I depended on them to help us. Joe went back to work a week after Samson was born and could only help in the evenings. To say I felt overwhelmed with the needs of a newborn and my own needs was an understatement. I cried – more often than I’d like.
Now a month later, I’m finally feeling better. I’m healing and have regained control of my bowels (Thank God!). I can just focus on Samson’s needs. Granted, I still have a dull ache. This past week, I started walking each day – for exercise and sanity. Now that my bowels are under control, I try to get out of the house at least once a day. It does a body good to breathe fresh air and get sunshine. Vitamin D does wonders!
Again, my story is not tragic, but it was traumatic for me because I had NOT prepared myself for what my body would experience AFTER giving birth or process what happened DURING birth after laboring for only 5-8 hours (not 15). I wish someone had told me just how long it would take to feel “better” (literally 5 weeks!!!) and that I could feel like an infant myself. I’m thankful that we have such a supportive family and friends. Food continues to flood in weeks later. I know that things will be fine now. But in those first few days, I felt like each hour was an accomplishment. I couldn’t comprehend a time when my body would be healed. It seemed like a pipe-dream.
But it has gotten better. Each day is an improvement. I can now enjoy being a new Mom. The best part of this whole deal :). I wouldn’t change it for the world – but we will wait awhile before having another kid. Recovery is a long road.
PS- More posts to come, but not until we can get into a routine – and get more sleep.