If ever there was something that I’ve learned from pregnancy it’s that you have to expect the unexpected. For example, expecting to not have morning sickness? You should probably expect that.
Or what about gestational diabetes? Even if people tell you the lowest possible risks and say no way! You’ll never have it…it might be best to just expect that you’ll have it.
And natural birth? I think I knew deep in the pit of my being that since nothing in this pregnancy was going “as expected” that I knew birth wouldn’t either…and so I should have expected it to be different than expected. Because that’s exactly what it was.
Last Thursday, March 8, started off like many normal Thursday’s lately (I know that I said we were being induced Wednesday…another unexpected event was that we got bumped to Thursday morning since there were already so many women going into labor naturally). I had two eggs with spinach and a bit of mozzarella cheese and a slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter an honey. I went upstairs and showered, taking a few seconds here and there to love on the dogs and tell them what wonderful creatures they are. But rather than drive to work we took a detour to the hospital; we were going to be induced…we were going to have a baby!
Upon arriving we checked in and made our way to room 256, the room we planned on having the baby in. We met our nurse, chatted with the doctor, and got started on some low doses of pitocin to start the contractions…granted, not a natural birth but with every bone in my body I was going to refuse pain relief. After our miscarriage last year I wanted to experience everything about pregnancy, labor and delivery that I could; I didn’t want to take the ability to birth a child for granted. We played music, napped, and watched movies for a couple of hours while we waited for the contractions to start; when they did it wasn’t painful at all, but more of a tightening like Braxton Hicks contractions felt like. I thought I was going to just rock through this labor!
Around 1:30pm or so the doctor came back in to check me and I was only at 2cm, so she decided to break my water to start getting contractions going a little faster. When the water broke it was apparently full of meconium, a sign that the baby is in distress a little, so we were hooked up to another monitor for his heart rate and started to thin out the meconium with water. Weston seemed to be responding well, his heart rate was great, and so we proceeded with our natural birth plan.
Y’all, I’ll describe contractions the way my friend Stefanie said it: they don’t call it a curse for no reason.
They started off small and the pain was equally distributed between my abdomen and my back. I have a high pain tolerance, and so it was completely bearable for several hours. Then around 3 the contractions started coming every 90 seconds, the pain was ALL in my lower back (a sign that the baby is facing the wrong way), and the pain was excruciating. Still Nate and I breathed through them while standing, doing the labor “dance” (basically just swaying from side to side), and sitting on a birthing ball. I have to tell you guys – I wasn’t sure I would like the birthing ball but it was my best friend at that point in time. We went on like this for 3 hours. And at that point I had to make a choice.
I was shaky, weak, tired, and felt like I should be a lot further along, but based on the way my cervix was refusing to dilate the last 4 weeks of pregnancy I had a feeling I was still nowhere near ready to push. Nate and I talked and I decided that IF the next time they checked me I was at a 7-10, then I felt like I could power through the rest. But if my cervix was dilated any less than that I was going to go ahead and ask for an epidural. I hoped and prayed that I would be 7-10 cm, but when the doctor came in and checked me I was still only at 4 cm and only 75% effaced.
So I did it – I asked for the epidural.
By the time the anesthetist arrived I had been laboring for about 8 hours with contractions coming 90 seconds apart for the last 4 hours and still in horrible pain. When he went to place the epidural he had to do it 3 different times due to a lack of space in between my vertebrae – all in the throws of labor, mind you – but finally it went in. I wish I could say the pain relief was immediate, but it wasn’t. It DID help deaden the pain a little though; that, and they turned down the amount of pitocin I was receiving. The problem now though was that Weston’s heartbeat was plummeting with every contraction and changing positions repeatedly was not helping that. Our doctor mentioned that she thought the best course of action would be to do a C-section before things got too dire with Weston, but said that it was completely up to us.
I should interject something here: as much as I wanted a natural childbirth, to feel the pain of labor, the pain of delivery, the weight of our child on my chest, our first and #1 priority going into it was always healthy mom, healthy baby. We decided before that we would do anything necessary to insure that, so when our doctor (who we trust with making the best call of action) suggested a C-section before something bad happened, we said yes with no hesitation. Sure, it was the absolute last thing that I wanted, but the thing I wanted most was to make sure our baby would be OK. It was a no-brainer for us.
Luckily once we made the decision the epidural had already been placed and there was an OR available. Nate changed into scrubs and the nurses prepped for surgery. We rolled down the hall towards the OR. And I was scared. I’ve never had major surgery before and was worried about the recovery time. I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to hold Weston immediately after being born. I felt like we made the right call, but had to face the fact that I had been completely humbled as we made our way to surgery.
Once in the OR it took about 10-15 minutes for the anesthesia to kick in on my epidural, and then Nate was allowed to come in. I could feel some pressure on my abdomen, but no pain, and within about 20 minutes from the time I was wheeled in I heard our baby’s first cries. I saw the look on Nate’s face when he saw him for the first time, which is something I’ll never forget. I saw a little purple fist bouncing around as they performed all of the tests on him, dried him off and wrapped him up. And then I saw him – our incredible, beautiful, perfect little boy being carried over to me for the first time. I wish I had words to describe how happy I felt! All of the emotions about not being able to hold him immediately disappeared and I was face to face with Weston, the little guy who’d been living in my belly for the past 9 months. The little one that I felt kicking, hiccuping, and squirming around in my tummy. The one that we prayed for, hoped for, and rejoiced over. He was laying next to me, with the man of my dreams – his daddy – gently watching over us.
Before I knew it it was time to whisk him away to be bathed and cleaned off and I stayed in the OR to be stitched up. Nate went with Weston, and when I was done they wheeled me back to our room to recover. Honestly this was the worst part of the whole thing – I was shaking like crazy from the adrenaline, hormones, and medicine. And although the nursing staff could not have been more incredible, I was alone without my husband or my baby there. When Nate brought Weston in I was shaking too hard to hold him, so they laid him down next to me instead. I couldn’t believe what we had just gone through and yet it was all non-existent when I looked in this little guy’s eyes:
Because we had a C-section I stayed in the hospital for 4.5 days to recover and to be monitored. Slowly but surely I had tube after tube after tube removed from my body until finally I had nothing attached but the bracelets around my wrist. I was able to feed Weston and hardly got any sleep, but every time I would look at his little face it made the exhaustion completely worth it – and still does!
Nate’s mom, my parents and my sister were able to visit while we were there and made sure that Weston never went without snuggles and love at any free moment that I wasn’t breastfeeding. Every time the nurses and doctors checked on me I had a huge confidence boost – apparently I was healing quickly and the incision site was extremely well done. Nights were probably the hardest because breastfeeding is difficult when you’re dealing with a woman who’s never done it (me) and an infant who’s equally lacking in experience (Weston). I wish I could say I was able to just power through, but there were definitely some emotional breakdowns in the middle of the night when I couldn’t figure out how to get him to latch. We worked through it though, and even though Weston dropped 9% body weight while we were there we still pushed through.
Monday we were discharged from the hospital – me with SteriStrips instead of staples on my incision, and Weston with a full entourage in tow. The entire thing was unexpected, but looking back it’s what happened and I could not have been more pleased with the fact that healthy mom, healthy baby is what we achieved.
Yesterday Wes turned 1 week old, and I still can’t believe how the time has flown. He had his 1-week checkup and weighed in at almost his birth weight, a feat that the doctor told us isn’t really expected until the second week. He’s gaining weight like a champ and was deemed “perfect” (I already knew that :)). We got the OK to stop supplementing his diet with pumped breast milk, something I rejoiced over, and we were told to basically start letting him sleep more at night – which means more sleep for us!
Having a baby is still kind of weird to me, but now that I look back at the past week I can’t really remember our life without his little face. There have been hard times and frustration, but every time I hear his little sighs, see his little smile, and watch him sleeping peacefully it makes every frustrating and sleepless second worth it. I may not have “felt” the birth, but I feel the love that a mommy has for her baby and FEEL so incredibly blessed that he was given to us to watch over and care for.