My Birth Story: Insert Labor Day Pun Here

So yesterday was my due date, but I already have a bouncing baby boy who is over 3 weeks old!

Since I shared my first birth story here, I wanted to share this one as well. Did I really write a FOUR POST series the first time around? Geeze. (See here, here, here, and here)

This will just be the one post. Spoiler alert: this time around went MUCH quicker.

So rewind to September 3rd, the day before labor day and the day of my baby shower. We cut it close, to say the least.

It had been an eventful weekend, as we’d also just moved into a new house. After spending the day at my parents house, we came home to box land to go to bed on a mattress on the floor. Junior was having trouble sleeping in our new house, so dada was showing him cat videos on his phone while I showered. And in the shower, I started having contractions. Not the usual ones, either, these ones hurt. In fact, I thought to myself about how water was called “the midwife’s epidural” and how that must be some crap because I wasn’t even in labor and the water was doing nothing for me (ha. ha. I never think I’m in labor when I’m in labor).

I got out of the shower and immediately started timing the contractions. Right off the bat they were 30 seconds long and two minutes apart.  I was miserable. I wanted to call the doctor right then, but again, I thought there was no way this was labor. I’d give it an hour to stop. Well, that was one of the longest hours of my life, and by the end of it the contractions were still consistent and I was beginning to think this was indeed labor.

So it happened that the moment my husband laid our son down to sleep, I opened the door and told him sorry, but we gotta go.

He insisted on packing a bag and even had the audacity to ask if I wanted to put some pants on. NO. NO I DID NOT. DAMN IT.

We arrived at the hospital just after midnight. It was officially Labor Day.

Exactly like last time, I didn’t think I had hit transition yet. This time, however, every nurse I encountered tried to tell me I was. But I’d only been in labor for an hour and a half, and it seemed like there was a long road ahead. Spoiler alert: there wasn’t.

I demanded an epidural PRONTO. I thought I’d get in a nap and be refreshed and ready when time to push rolled around. But while they set the epidural, my water broke and the nurse said call the doctor, it’s time to push.

All the while I’m still quite certain we have a ways to go. When I arrived, I was only at 4 centimeters! It had only been 30 minutes! Well bam, they measured again and in half an hour I’d gone from 4 to 10. No wonder I was in so much pain! Dang!

So I was totally bewildered. At this point we were just waiting on the doctor. It was pretty easy to resist the urge to push thanks to the epidural, but I also had a cold, and I could not resist the urge to cough. Every time I did, the whole room jumped. “WHOA, whoa, eeeasy!” One nurse said he didn’t know what would happen if I sneezed.

My doctor wasn’t on call (of course). When the on call doctor arrived, lo and behold, it was the same doctor who had delivered Junior! I guess they have her working all the holidays.

I pushed for one contraction. Everyone exchanged looks and the nurse said “ok, we might need you to do a half-push next time. Just listen really carefully, we might ask.” and I’m like “ok…I don’t know how to do a half push…” and one of the guys shook his head and smiled. “She’s going to have this baby without pushing.”

And I don’t even know what to tell you. At 3:08 am on Labor Day morning, my baby just arrived of his own accord. Most of my laboring was in my coughing, which sounds like I’m kidding but it’s true. I looked down and saw a baby. He wasn’t crying because this labor wasn’t weird enough already. The cord was wrapped twice around his neck, but it was very loose. The NICU people looked him over, suctioned him, weighed him, still no crying. He didn’t even cry when he got his vitamin K shot. I just kept asking “is something wrong? Is he ok? Why isn’t he crying?” the doctors just said they’d checked him over, he was healthy, seems happy… he must just be a very chill baby.

I guess so. He’s healthy as a baby horse. He just didn’t cry for the first 24 hours of his life. I guess because he didn’t feel like it. Or he enjoyed freaking me out.

So TA DA. That’s the end of the story. I just had a baby all of a sudden. Obviously, very different from my first son. He had a special yellow hat at the hospital to signify that he was late preterm, so that nurses would know to watch him extra close. He was tiny to us – 7 lbs 4 oz. But whenever we marvel out loud about how small he is, everyone is quick to say “he’s actually kinda regular size, even big for a preterm baby.”

We always joked with Junior that we “never had a newborn.” He was so big and strong. He was chubby, had hair, he didn’t look like a newborn or flop around. This time, we had a newborn. A preterm newborn even! Honestly it really scares me sometimes how small he is. He doesn’t have a lot of baby fat (he’s got a lot of baby fur though!) and you can feel how small and fragile his little bones are. For the first week of his life, we were at the doctor every day to monitor his weight gain. He had a lip tie and a tongue tie, breastfeeding got off to a really rocky start, and he was slightly jaundiced so he was a hard sleeper. So hard that it was often difficult to get him to eat, he was just so sleepy!

But we had his tongue and lip ties corrected early on. He got better at eating, his jaundice went away, and he passed his birth weight. He really is quite strong – he was lifting his head from day one! Sometimes I think he could roll over if he really put his mind to it. And I knew when he was still in the womb what a strong kicker he is – he used to wake me up with it! But to me, he still seems really, really, REALLY small. I love it as much as it worries me.

So that’s the story of Finny, named for the character in A Separate Peace. He already seems as precocious, innocent, and spontaneous as his namesake.

I’ll try to write more soon. As of now, I’m very sleep deprived, I’m still unpacking and getting settled in our new house, and I’m already feeling some endometriosis and IBS and anxiety things sneaking up on me. This is easily the craziest time of my life so far, and my husband said it’s honestly a good bet that this will be the craziest time of our lives ever – having a toddler and a newborn, moving, and did I mention my husband just switched careers too?

Yeah spacing that stuff out would have been good. But! Here we are. So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, you know why. But the blog is not done.

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Birth Story Pt. 4: New Years Baby

(Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)

As soon as the nurse went to fetch the doctor, Husband turned to me with the biggest smile on his face and I promptly burst into tears. He had not expected that. He asked what was wrong and I sputtered out that I was scared. And it was the sort of scared that couldn’t be logic’d away, though husband tried. Yes, all the birthing classes. Yes, I read a lot of books. Yes, I’m still terrified.

Suddenly the room was full of people. Since it’s a University hospital, lots of future doctors come to watch. I didn’t really mind, I had a lot on my mind right then and they were all plenty busy transforming the bed and getting supplies and turning on special lights so it didn’t really feel like an audience. More like a pit crew.

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And so, we started pushing! And even though I had an epidural, I could feel the urge to push and sometimes noticed it before the doctors saw it on the monitor. Sometimes they’d say to skip a push if the contraction was small. This was so exciting! Pushing! That’s what labor’s all about right?

It didn’t seem like long at all before my husband and the doctors began to excitedly exclaim that they could see the baby’s head! Wow!

The doctor asked if I wanted a mirror to see what was going on down under. That was a strong pass. But pushing is weirder than I thought it’d be. It’s a little different than a bowel movement, which is what it’s usually compared to. Sometimes the doctors would praise a push and other times they’d ask if I was really pushing – rude! But with all the coaching and trying different things, I still had no consistent idea of what made a push good or bad, and I didn’t know how to improve.

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The doctor tentatively suggested the mirror again, not just to sneak a peek at the baby, but to get a visual on what muscles were doing what. I’m admittedly pretty unfamiliar with the muscles between my legs and I’ve never needed to coordinate them to do anything like this. I looked at my husband, who looked down below thoughtfully before saying “You’ve seen worse on YouTube.” So sure, bring on the mirror.

This was both good and bad, and the pros and cons were things I’d never thought of in all my preparation.

The pro was that it really did help me push effectively to see the muscles in action.

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The con? Well, everyone had been going on and on about how much of the baby’s head was out. I thought we must be getting close to the forehead. But they set up the mirror and WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There’s like a square inch – MAYBE – of baby head. Yes it’s thrilling that it has a full head of brown hair. BUT THAT’S IT?? At this rate I might not even get a New Years baby, and it’s only 1:00 in the afternoon! I’M GOING TO BE IN LABOR FOREVER.

I knew, of course, from all my classes and books and videos that once the head’s out the rest of the baby pops right out, but in my mind the head came little by little. In actuality the head kinda comes out all at once too, which makes “progress” pretty much invisible to the untrained, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed eye.

And about here is where I became much less enthusiastic about everything. This was work, not miracle of life magic. I was starting to feel a bit odd, sort of a flu-like exhaustion in my chest. My epidural was wearing off slightly which was good, because I could move my legs a bit better. Now we could use some of our positioning training– sort of.

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Around this time we discovered our pup was sunny-side up. That name is compensating for how NOT cutesy and delightful its definition is. Baby was face up instead of the optimal face down position, which meant it would be a more challenging push. “Challenging” is a nice word for “painful.” But it’s ok, I have an epidural. An epidural that’s slowly wearing off.

This also meant that most of our knowledge of positioning wouldn’t help much. I found myself in positions that weren’t even in the books. This added to my general feeling of “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

All the while, progress is still disappointingly not visual.

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My chest still had that tired feeling, and now the doctor acknowledged it – my oxygen levels were no bueno. Now I was glad to be in a hospital. We got an oxygen mask on which I guess helped, but it made me crazy thirsty and almost impossible to understand when I tried to talk.

Not that I was saying much, because I was still pretty put out about how little of the baby was showing. Everyone else was still pretty excited about it so instead of saying “ARE YOU KIDDING THIS IS CRAP” I didn’t say anything at all.

But soon, my epidural was completely worn off and I had some f***ing things to say. I led off with saying I needed another epidural and then asking where the epidural guy was every minute or so.

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Things were getting serious. There was almost no time between pushes (who exactly sleeps between pushes, labor books?) and I was exhausted. Between pushes, there was just enough time for husband to give me a spoonful of ice chips. This became my incentive for every push. As soon as it was over I crashed back on the pillows and yanked off my mask to demand ice chips. It was amazing to me how long it took husband to realize this was a pattern and that yes, I wanted ice chips EVERY. PUSH. I was like a really angry baby bird.

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I will END YOU.

And then came the crying. I tried “vocalizing” during pushes but it was too out of control, so I just ugly sobbed inbetween pushes. I was tired and hurting and SO DONE. My mom and husband encouraged me to reach down and feel the baby’s head, but I refused. I was so sure touching anything anywhere would hurt. Because everything hurt. AND WHERE THE EFF IS THAT EPIDURAL GUY?!?

And all of a sudden, I got to experience unmedicated childbirth.

The baby came out and I all but passed out. As the baby was born, epidural guy arrived, hooked me up, and promised I’d feel better in about 15 minutes. There was some meconium present so they didn’t stimulate the baby to cry right away. It didn’t take long for me to hear it though. Apparently the cord was loosely wrapped around his neck but it was so not a big deal that I didn’t even hear about it until later.

Husband cut the cord and tearfully announced that it was a boy. I smiled and cried.

I was beat. Because of the meconium I couldn’t have immediate skin to skin. I thought I’d be heartbroken over that but honestly I was glad to have a moment to close my eyes and get a break from the chaos and feels. To my surprise, my husband just rested his forehead on mine and whispered all kinds of sweet happy things to me while tears ran down our cheeks. We had agreed he’d follow the baby everywhere but I was touched to be shown attention. I gently reminded him that he ought to go talk to our baby so he wouldn’t be frightened, and away he went.

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Assured that our boy was in good hands and watched over by daddy, I rag doll’d. The epidural was in, so I couldn’t feel the two little stitches I had to get. I asked to see the placenta once it came out, and was happily surprised when I was given a full tour of the organ and how it worked. This was a huge upside of having a small army of enthusiastic med students present.

Our pup was born with a little fever and needed suctioning but I wouldn’t hear about any of it until later on.

Finally, my baby boy was placed on my chest. And I cried of course, and I cannot possibly explain how it felt except that my hand covered his entire tiny back and I didn’t even roll him over to see his face at first, I just loved him.

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So at 3:12 PM on New Years Day our little Junior was born. Birth plan-wise, he was born as naturally as possible. He just happened to come a week early on a major holiday in a hospital I’d never been to before. And really it was perfect in its own weird way.

A song from Shrek the Musical comes to mind:

“This is how I pictured it,
more or less, I must admit.
A thumping in my heart,
a life about to start!
I knew this day would come
and you would find your way.
At last my dream comes true!
I knew I knew I knew
It would be
today!”

Birth Story Pt. 2: What #!%?ing Stage is This?!

You can find Part 1 here.

With contractions four minutes apart and impossible to ignore, we hurried out to our car and started dialing for the midwife.

The night before last, we’d called her in the middle of the night as well, but I didn’t feel bad doing it again because this was the real deal. The first time we called, contractions were 6 minutes apart and I was still able to chat about them cheerily on the phone. Now they were four minutes and terrible, and I was going to make sure I sounded as terrible as I felt. I have spent a lot of my life living with chronic pain and perfecting the art of not sounding how I feel, so this was a little tricky.

I did my best, but she said exactly the same thing she’d said two nights ago: take some Tylenol PM and go to sleep. What?! The birth center was 45 minutes away and I felt like I was dying. But hey, I figured labor would be more painful than I could guess, maybe I was still in early labor. So on New Years Day at 2 or 3 in the morning, I sent my husband running into Walmart to get Tylenol PM.

I waited in the car and started to overheat, even though it was off and we’d never turned on the heater. I opened the door and let myself hang out in the dead of night dead of winter air. During contractions I closed the door so I could scream and hopefully not draw attention to myself.

Husband came back to find me hanging out of the car. He looked at the ground as he ran up, thinking maybe I’d thrown up, but I told him no, I was just too hot.

Driving home, he encouraged me to be vocal in hopes that it would help with the pain. He did not expect the volume on my next contraction.

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At home, I took the Tylenol PM and climbed into a warm bath. It was amazing how much better I felt. Exponentially less pain, contractions spread out, warm, happy feelings…

For all of ten minutes.

Back to screaming and four minutes apart.

But here’s the thing.

1.) Our midwife, classes, and books told us that if you could slow the contractions at all, it wasn’t real labor.

2.) Even if it was real labor, the rule was not to go in until you could no longer walk or talk during a contraction.

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Therefore, we reasoned, this either wasn’t real labor or if it was, it was still very early.

I tried really hard to go to sleep. But I just couldn’t lay down. I’d get in bed and it was just impossible to stay there. I jumped back up, I had to keep moving, keep walking around. Husband was starting to get very upset that I wouldn’t let him coach me. He told me to try to sleep and I did, I swear, but it looked like I was intentionally going against everything he said. I just couldn’t follow instructions.

That’s a sign of transition.

So is losing modesty, and boy, was mine gone. I was too hot. I threw all my clothes off. I kept going into the bathroom and sitting down, only to hop right back up off the toilet and keep walking. Everything was happening so fast, why shut the door? Occasionally I stopped at the sink to lean over and see if maybe I’d throw up. Nope! No time. Must walk, must keep walking, into and out of bathroom.

Husband accepted that I wasn’t going to sleep, so he tried to help me through contractions. He wanted to hold me and I wanted him to hold me but as soon as I touched him he was so insufferably hot I’d shove him away, glaring and yelling incoherently. I wasn’t actually mad at him for being hot, but all my actions said that yes I was, in fact, I HATED HIM FOR IT.

Contractions were down to three minutes apart. I was getting tired, so instead of walking in circles from bathroom to bedroom, I turned to crawling.

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Around this time, I started earnestly telling husband that I could not do this. I had to go to the hospital – not the birth center, the hospital. I needed medication right now. RIGHT NOW!

And I was crying, because everyone everywhere was right. I couldn’t do it naturally. As soon as I felt labor pains, I’d cry for drugs. I wasn’t even in transition yet and the pain was already far more than I could bear.

(Spoiler alert: I was in transition. But our midwife said I wasn’t, and we believed her. She knew better than us! We were dumb first time parents, what did we know? Plus, it’s not like she was our unbending, out-of-date, over-medical doctor. She knew natural birth. She had to be right – in our minds there was no question. If I’d figured out that yes, this was transition, would I have pushed through it?

Every labor really is different!)

Husband stood his ground. He knew we both really wanted a natural birth. At this point, somehow, I still felt like maybe the baby wasn’t coming at all yet. In my mind, I needed to get to a hospital and get an epidural so I could sleep. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours at this point. Because New Years.

We fought. He tried being sweet, tough love, commanding, begging, encouragement, peaceful imagery, but I was just beyond talking to. I was screaming, crying, and occasionally choking out a plead to be taken to the hospital.

We called the midwife again. Again, she said not yet.

I pulled myself together enough to try to have a conversation about our options. I insisted that the pain was too intense and reiterated that since I wasn’t even in transition, it would only get worse. I asked if my husband didn’t want to go to the hospital because of our doctor. Husband thought that if we could go and have an uneventful natural birth, it would prove him wrong and lead him to research more and be supportive of his future patients who want a natural birth. Yes, part of our agenda was “saving” our doctor.

He assured me he was past that. But now we couldn’t trust that hospital, period. Even if we got a different doctor, our doctor was head of the department. It was likely we’d go though all the routine medical interventions no matter who we got.

This level-headed discussion was cut short when I lost it again and went back to yelling and walking in circles, stopping between contractions to curl myself around the box fan.

Two minutes apart now.

Husband called the midwife and said “either we’re coming to you or we’re going to the ER, but we’re going somewhere now.” She told us to head on over.

Husband had to work pretty hard to convince me I couldn’t go naked.

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LEAVE ME.

Is this baby coming in the car? That was a legitimate concern. Tune in next time to see if we make it…

Birth Story Pt 1: Laboring At A New Years Eve Party

On New Years Eve, I was crawling around on the bathroom floor of my best friend’s new house, where I had spent a majority of the evening. I was trying to rush through this contraction because I could hear everyone counting down to 2016 in the living room. Everyone was drinking sparkling fruit juice, and my glass was sitting in my place in the middle of all of them. I hurried out just in time for the “Happy New Year!” and caught the tail clinks of a toast.

Why didn’t you go home or to a hospital if your contractions were that bad, Rachel?

Let me set this up for you. It’s New Years Eve. Two nights ago, I called the midwife to tell her I was having pretty regular contractions. She suggested taking a tylenol PM and trying to sleep. Sure enough, it wasn’t real labor.

That same night, Toby and I had been out on a date at Macaroni Grill.

Now, on New Years Eve, we had taken my sister to Cici’s for dinner. So I thought maybe having big meals was causing contractions.  This is the first of many reasons I decided I was positively not going into labor tonight.

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The reason we took my sister to dinner was that my parents and other sister were across the state seeing Willie Nelson in concert. Dinner was early because we already had plans to go hang out at my friend’s new house for a small New Years Eve party.

Here’s a fun excerpt from when we were making these plans:

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Never say never, folks.

So around 10 I started having contractions. At some point I went to the bathroom (the first of many trips) and discovered I was also bleeding just a tiny bit. So I low key texted my husband that I was having contractions about 7 minutes apart and that I had a teeny bit of bloody show. First he asked if we should leave. I said no! I’m fine. He asked if he should call the midwife. I said no! Don’t bother her on new years eve. He asked if I wanted to tell my friends. I said no! It was probably nothing and I didn’t want to freak them out. He asked if he needed to run out to the car to grab some feminine products from our go bag. I said no! It was so light, there was no problem. But he insisted I probably needed something just in case, and suggested seeing if my friend had any in her bathroom because she was, in fact, a girl.

So as not to arouse suspicion, I didn’t ask. I’m sorry, I know she’d understand. Bathroom trip number two! Not only did she indeed have pads, but she had the same brand I use!

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It was less than two hours until midnight. Labor takes longer than that. Even if I was in labor, I had plenty of time to stay and play. So I settled in. And the contractions got longer and stronger. I started going to the bathroom every few contractions to work through them without people wondering why I was pacing/rocking/aggressively pushing my face into cold tile.

By the time midnight rolled around, contractions were still 6 minutes apart but they were getting extremely intense. Basically I was running for the bathroom every 6 minutes and that’s obnoxious. My friends were so sweet about it though! They never made fun of me or even pointed it out. They even offered me pillows to help me get comfy for the brief stints I spent sitting on the couch! I thought I must just have the sweetest, most thoughtful friends ever.

And I do! But I found out later that during one of my many disappearances, Husband went ahead and told them what was going on – and not to tell me that he told them what was going on. Which really was what I wanted most – for them to know, but to act like they don’t know, but to also be nice to me. Keep in mind, this was not insensitive of anyone – we all collectively thought this was false labor.

So that brings us to where we opened – me on the bathroom floor during the countdown.

When I returned, we toasted and shared our resolutions. And my plan was to leave after that was done. But guess what? I continued to make completely irrational choices because hey, I was on a roll. We had been playing through Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep all night, and we were almost to the end of the game!

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So I stayed until we hit the final boss and my contractions were 4 minutes apart. I thought I was doing an ok job acting like I was fine, but I probably wasn’t. My friends were just also acting like I was fine. I have such good friends. We beat the game somewhere around 2 am – and I hurried out during the end credits. Yes, I decided to skip the after credits scene.

I had to start making rational decisions eventually!

So, yes. The first four+ hours of my labor were spent at a New Years Eve party with me looking like this the entire time:

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Happy New Years! I’m not drunk but I am going to go home, throw up, get naked, and roll around on the floor yelling incoherently.

Tune in next time to see why I didn’t just go to the freaking birth center like any sane person would at this point!