I recently had my first baby, which I never really made clear on here.
I thought I’d be blogging about my pregnancy but it didn’t really happen. As things progressed, I realized I wasn’t so keen on revealing such intimate details of my life and the changes going on with my body.
But now that he’s here, I would like to play around with blogging about more personal things in life, and this could be a great forum to document my journey into parenthood.
That said, I do want to take precautions to protect his and my privacy, and those of other people I’m writing about.
It all starts with a really long labor.
My due date was January 12th.
On December 27th at my weekly prenatal appointment my stomach was measured, as it always was, and the nurse – one I hadn’t seen before yet – said, “Oh, that can’t be right.”
“It’s the position he’s in,” I explained.
Many people had commented that I didn’t look as pregnant as I was, and I was used to giving the same story each time: He’s positioned head down, like he should be, but he’s facing my left side instead of my back (which would be ideal). So he wasn’t sticking out as much as he otherwise would be.
“You’ve earned yourself an ultrasound next week,” she said.
Great, I thought. I wasn’t expecting another one. It would be wonderful to see him.
On January 4th, there was the ultrasound, and it came out that he was measuring in at 5 pounds and 14 ounces. That seemed small to me.
My last ultrasound was in October, when he weighed 2 pounds, 13 ounces, and was in the 51st percentile. With my due date a week away I assumed he’d be around 7 pounds, or at least 6 1/2.
My office appointment had to be scheduled separately from my ultrasound that day, so I actually went back to work in between. “He’s only 5 pounds, 14 ounces,” I told my coworkers. “He’s definitely not coming out for awhile.”
When I went back for the office visit, the nurse practitioner explained that the baby went from the 51st percentile to under 10. This meant he wasn’t growing as fast as he was, or should be.
“I’ve consulted the doctor and we think the baby will grow better on the outside than on the inside,” she said. “It’s time to get that baby out of you. We’re going to induce you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?!” I said, almost falling off the doctor’s table.
But I was going to make freezer meals that weekend so I wouldn’t have to cook for awhile. We only had one of the car seats installed. I hadn’t finished packing my hospital to go bag.
“Well, we’re going to try to induce you tomorrow, it can be a long process,” she said.
Truer words had not been spoken.
So, I had to go back to work and say, “Surprise! They’re inducing me tomorrow.”
Day One – Induction Begins
We arrived at the hospital at 10am. I got hooked up to monitors to measure the baby’s heartbeat and contractions 24/7. I was told that I was already dilated 1 centimeter and I was contracting – I just wasn’t feeling it yet. I was encouraged by the fact that I had started early labor on my own.
They gave me the first induction med, which I believe was Cytotec, a pill I was to take every couple of hours. At night, they gave me a new med, Cervidil. This was inserted in me much like a tampon and was to stay in for 12 hours, overnight.
They also gave me a (baby safe) sleeping med, as the Cervidil can cause a lot of cramping. Also, it’s hard to sleep when you’re hooked up to monitors that get screwed up every time you move.
This first night I heard a woman in active labor for at least two hours. She was screaming. A lot. I started to feel really apprehensive about what was soon coming my way.
Finally, after one of the screams, I heard a baby crying. I felt so invested at this point, even though I never met her or her baby, I was able to go to sleep with some relief.
Day Two – Things Stall
There was no progress. I had not dilated further. I was not feeling my sporadic contractions.
I knew the induction process would take awhile, but I’d honestly been expecting to have the baby by the end of the second day, and it began to dawn on me that this was not going to happen.
At this point, I had already taken two days of my maternity leave that I would not get back – every day that now went by would be a day I wouldn’t get to spend with my son. And my husband only got one week off of work, with two of those precious days wasted with no baby.
I was no longer worried about going through the birthing process like I had been the night before when hearing that woman – I now just wanted to get it over with, regardless of how difficult or painful.
After taking the Cytotec with no results they were going to do the Cervidil overnight again, to be put in at 10:15pm.
Day Three – Some Action
Around 12:15am the nurse came in and explained that more than one laboring woman had come in and they might not be able to get to me that night.
They actually ended up not getting to me until 12:15 the next afternoon, meaning, that we wasted *14 hours* where nothing was happening. I was beyond frustrated.
Here’s what happened: they were understaffed, had more laboring women than they normally do in January (typically a slow month), and several of their staff were out on their own maternity leaves (couldn’t be called in).
To be clear, I received phenomenal care in the hospital. I truly believe that what happened could not have been helped. When it was eventually my turn I was the star of the show, and no one snuck out to deliver induction meds to someone else.
The day went by uneventfully until around 9pm. I was doing a Sudoku puzzle in the bed when I felt a liquid come trickling out of me. We called a nurse in who confirmed it was amniotic fluid – my water had broken.
This was unexpected. The medications I was on, as far as I know, were meant to thin the cervix – they were not inteded to break the water or cause contractions.
Also, usually contractions (ones you can actually feel) come before the water breaks, or they break your water at the hospital – it’s not often like the movies where the breaking of the water is the start of labor. But it was for me.
Now that my water broke I was considered to be in active labor and they wanted to get things going right away – once the water breaks, the protective sac the baby is in is broken, leaving the baby exposed, and infection is a possibility.
Also, I had a little meconium in the fluid, which means the baby pooped in the womb. While not a huge sign of alarm, it is usually an indication that the baby is distressed.
They decided to wait until the planned time to remove the Cervidil, 12:15am.
Day Four – The Birth
After the Cervidil was taken out they got me started on Pitocin. This is a hardcore drug that brings on hardcore contractions. I began to actually feel my contractions, and felt them all night. By morning, I was in a lot of pain.
The contractions felt like the worst period cramps you’ve ever had that come in like a viscous tide and get stronger and stronger and stronger, squeezing and burning and ripping apart your insides, and then the tide slowly fades back out again.
Around 10am the midwife told me she was ordering the epidural. This was a relief for obvious reasons, but also because knowing when to ask for it was something I’d been worried about when charting my birth plan.
You don’t want to ask for it too soon, because it can draw out the whole process. But you most certainly do not want to ask for it too late, because there can reach a point where they need you to start pushing and they won’t give it to you. So just having that decision made, where I didn’t have to ask for it, was a huge comfort.
While I was getting the epidural from an anesthesiologist who looked like he could be in a metal band I started getting a contraction. That’s right. I got a contraction while having a needle put into my spine.
“I’m getting a contraction right now!” I pretty much sobbed into my nurse’s arms. “Breathe through it,” she said, and I did.
The effects of the epidural took place pretty quickly. Soon I was unable to move my legs, which was not as scary as it sounds. For several hours I felt no contractions. None. After experiencing them all night and all morning.
I actually rested for awhile, sleeping off and on. If 87 different people weren’t coming in and out and checking my vitals and such I could have slept much better.
I stayed on the Pitocin off and on all day. Occasionally the baby’s heart rate would drop, and then they’d stop for awhile, and pick it back up again. I did start to feel contractions again, although not as intense as before the epidural.
At some point my cervix dilated to 4 centimeters. Around 3pm, it was suddenly at 9 centimeters (at 10, you push). This was a huge jump.
“I’d say you’re going to have the baby by dinnertime, or by 8 at the latest,” the midwife said.
But then progress halted once again. I stayed at 9 centimeters for several hours.
At 7pm, the nurses’ shifts end and other nurses come on. My new nurse came in.
At this point, they had me lying on my right side with my left leg propped up one of those food tray tables that go over the bed.
I was gripping the bed like it was a life preserver and I was in the middle of the Atlantic with a great white circling. (My right arm was immensely sore from doing this after it was all over.) When contractions came I breathed loudly and open mouthed through them.
My nurse I’d had for the past 12 hours and the midwife prepped the incoming nurse on my condition, informing them that I was 9 centimeters dilated and things had remained stagnant for awhile but, “She’s getting increasingly uncomfortable.”
“I can see that,” she said, eyeing me.
She came over and looked down on me in my super vulnerable position and said, “I know this is a really hard time to switch nurses.”
She said something after that. It was probably, “But I’m going to take good care of you.” But I just heard her acknowledgement that it was a difficult time to switch, and that immediately put me at ease.
Finally, about an hour later around 8pm, it was time to push. Pushing was hard, I think because of the epidural.
I put all of my effort into it but it felt like I was barely doing anything at all. My husband, the nurse, and the midwife all cheered me on telling me I was doing a great job but I didn’t believe them because there was no baby.
The baby’s head kept coming in and out – which is normal – and it came out later that he had a real cone head – also normal – so it took awhile for that long head to come out. (The cone head later went down within a few hours.)
Remember how I mentioned the baby was facing my left side? At that recent ultrasound it was revealed that he had moved and was now facing the right side. While laboring, my midwife told me he had turned so he was facing up, which is not great and more painful for me.
But then – and I didn’t know this until later – he actually turned while he was in the birth canal so he was facing down, the correct way.
That, in combination with his head sticking part way out for awhile, was undoubtedly the most painful part of labor. More painful than pushing. More painful than contractions.
The midwife asked if I wanted to feel the head. I said no. That was too weird. But I did peek over my belly to see it – there it was. Part of a hairy little head. It did encourage me to keep going.
As the labor progressed more and more people came into the room. Because of the concerns with the baby’s weight, the meconium in the fluid, and the fact that it had been 24 hours since my water broke, the Special Care team was brought in.
I thought he would never come. It was so painful having him part way out.
I hadn’t been screaming like the woman I’d heard that first night. “You were so quiet,” my husband later told me.
I did breathe very heavily – the midwife asked me more than once if I needed oxygen and forced me to slow my breathing down so I didn’t hyperventilate. And I certainly made a lot of noise, wavering between mouth breathing, grunting, and whimpering.
Finally, it felt like everything down there was being torn in half and I gave out one massive scream and the baby – it seemed – just fell out of me. I had him at 9:35pm, after pushing for an hour and a half.
Things happened very quickly. The midwife cut the cord and handed him over to Special Care in what seemed like seconds and they put him under a heat lamp, doing whatever they were doing over there.
My husband did not get to cut the cord, and I did not get immediate skin-to-skin contact.
I laid back, feeling like I’d been hit by a mac truck. The midwife was able to get the placenta out of me pretty quickly.
“Holy shit that’s big,” I said.
“It’s actually small,” she responded. “This is probably why the baby is small.”
I thought once that was out of me the poking and prodding of my stomach and insides was done, but it wasn’t. Apparently I was bleeding more than was normal. The doctor came in.
There wasn’t exactly alarm in their voices as they worked on sewing me up – fortunately I was still numb from the epidural – but maybe they toned it down for my benefit.
The conversation went something like: “I can’t figure out where this blood is coming from, I think it’s behind the cervix.” “Do you see this over here? Yeah I’m just going to sew this up.” “Oh this over here, what do you think? Yeah I’m going to take care of that…”
Time passed. My husband went over to the baby and took a picture and showed me, as I couldn’t see him well from where I was.
I was somewhat shocked. He had huge, darkish eyes, a full head of hair, and he looked…like me.
Or at least, like a Landers, like my dad’s side of the family. He did not look like a Nudi. Most babies I know really resemble their father more than the mother, so I was very surprised by what my baby looked like.
Special Care finished whatever they were doing to the baby and my husband got to take him. I was still laying spread eagled being sewn up. Literally about 40, 45 minutes had gone by, during which time I was trying to sneak peaks at my baby across the room.
I had done all the work and my husband got to hold him and bond with him first. What the heck.
Finally, while they were still working on me, my husband was able to bring the baby over to me. I teared up as he was put into my arms for the very first time. “Aww,” I heard one of the eight people in the room say.
He was here, and it was magic.
We stayed in the hospital for a few more days and the baby had tests run on him to make sure everything was okay.
He ended up weighing 6 pounds and 4 ounces – small for his gestational age, considering he almost made it to his due date (was born on January 8th) and I was technically full term. But, he was doing awesomely and we were cleared to go home.
Now at home, my husband and I are getting used to life with a newborn. I’d read about it. I’d heard about it. I’d planned for it. But it’s an entirely different thing to live it.
The lack of sleep is absolutely the biggest adjustment.
Things That Surprised Me
Things I wasn’t expecting about the whole birthing process:
I way over-packed my hospital to go bag.
We ended up not needing diapers, formula, pacifiers, food, change for vending machines, or extra clothes for my husband. The hospital provided so much for us, and my husband was able to go home each day to take care of our cats and grab anything else we might need.
No one gave me shit about not breastfeeding.
After doing extensive research, talking at length with my husband, and consulting my health care professionals, I made the unpopular decision to not breastfeed. I was fully expecting to get pressured about it while at the hospital, and it never happened.
On the contrary, I received a lot of great advice on bottle feeding and how to still make it a special bonding experience with the baby just as if I was nursing.
My super chapped lips.
With all the mouth breathing, my lips got beyond chapped – my mouth was seriously disgusting at the end. No amount of chapstick or ice chips helped. I actually developed a sort of mouth sore for a couple of days afterwards.
I didn’t ever think I was going to die.
Like many first-time moms, I was scared about the whole birthing a baby thing. It’s undoubtedly the most painful thing you’ll ever go through, and things can go wrong or in a totally different direction than you expected.
It was indeed difficult and massively painful. But, here’s the thing: it wasn’t unmanageable.
I never once thought, “I’m going to die,” or, “I’m not going to make it through this.”
I wasn’t alone.
I thought I would feel very isolated giving birth.
I knew my husband would be there, doing everything he could – and he was amazing, for the record.
But the entire pregnancy I’d felt alone, like everything was changing for me and not for him. He’ll literally never know what it’s like to experience what I had to experience.
Most of the nurses and midwives I dealt with had their own kids. But even though they’d been through it, I would be the one going through it *right then.* I would be the only one in the room actually giving birth at that particular time.
But I never felt alone. Having an awesome team was truly essential. I felt like they were right there with me the whole way.
Now that I’ve been through labor and birth and have made it out to the other side, I’d give first-time pregnant women the following advice:
- Have a birth plan, but know it might go out the window.
- A supportive team, whether it’s your significant other or another family member, in conjunction with an excellent hospital staff, cannot be underestimated.
- Unless your labor is progressing very quickly, I’d probably recommend the epidural. It makes it harder to push, but it’s a good trade off for having the pain significantly minimized.
- You can and will get through this. I did.