He was born on Monday, January 13th at 6:46pm. His due date. I thought I was going to go into labor a couple of weeks late, but based on all the nesting that was going on in my house the weekend before he was born I should have known otherwise.
I woke on the 13th feeling the same: bloated, tired, and very pregnant. I had always planned on working up to my due date so this particular Monday was to be no different. I got ready for the day and left Matt at home who had the day off and was planning on finishing his grad school application (nothing like waiting to the last minute) and then head out to the backcountry with a friend.
I got to work at 9am and was chit-chatting with coworkers and a few moments later I felt a small twinge of pain that made me pause mid-sentence. I also thought I had wet my pants. But I knew I hadn’t…or at least I hoped I hadn’t. I excused myself, went to the bathroom where I confirmed that my water was definitely leaking (not “broken” in my book), then walked back into the office and announced that I had to head home because I was pretty sure I was in labor.
My coworkers were excited and concerned about me driving the mile back to my house, but I felt fine and wasn’t having contractions. If anything else, I was in complete shock. I knew that this baby was going to come one day, but I couldn’t believe it was really happening. My coworker texted Matt that my water had broke and that I was driving home.
I got home a few minutes later where I walked in on Matt sitting at the computer frantically typing to finish his application. He announced that he had to leave and head back to his office since he had left something for his application. I was a little disappointed since I imagined my husband at home while I was in labor.
In the meantime, I called my parents who had travel reservations to Alaska. They were relieved and excited that their travel dates would allow them to meet this little one. I also called a friend who had agreed to watch the dogs and then called my doula. My doula and I messaged back and forth while Matt was out and about finishing his grad school application. Overall I was feeling great. In fact, no contractions had started but my waters continued to leak. I felt well enough and while Matt was gone for over two hours, I cleaned the house, put out the trash for the following day, and even got on my hands and knees and cleaned some of my hardwood floors.
By the time Matt returned home, I was beginning to have contractions. They weren’t terribly exciting, but definitely happening. I had downloaded a contraction timer app to help me time them, but it was useless since I either forgot to start or stop the darn thing. I told Matt he was responsible for starting and stopping the timer, but even he forgot (I vote “no” to the contraction timer applications). They started at about ten minutes apart with five minutes in-between, but quickly went to seven minutes apart with four minutes in-between. I took a shower, but had to pause my chit-chatting with Matt during a contraction. This is when I knew I wanted to have my doula with me. I sent her a message to come as soon as possible and she was on it! She was at my door with chocolate cupcakes in hand within twenty minutes.
At 12:30pm I stood in my kitchen with Matt and my doula and nibbled on some trail mix. I reminded my doula that I had been diagnosed with Group B Strep and was told by my doctor that I had to get to the hospital within three hours of my water breaking to be put on antibiotics so I didn’t pass the bacteria on to my baby. It was now past the three hour mark and my doula got a serious look on her face and stated that it was a good idea to get to the hospital. Matt agreed.
We gathered all of our belongings: one small bag for me and one for Matt, my own pillow, infant carseat, purse, and two gift boxes of goodies that I had planned on giving the nurses who helped me during and post delivery. Since I was told that I couldn’t eat anything once being admitted to the hospital I took one look at the chocolate cupcakes on the kitchen counter and scarfed one down. This was my last “meal” until midnight and it tasted so good!
We pulled out of the garage at exactly 1:13pm. The time is easy to remember since it also reflected the date. The drive to the hospital normally takes twenty minutes. This particular day of all days, took almost thirty-five minutes. Matt turned down every wrong road…poor guy. I was so uncomfortable with each bump along the way and I couldn’t wait to be out of the car. My contractions were three minutes apart and lasted over one minute each. I tried to recall what I had learned from my Hypnobabies teaching, but to be honest, I was just trying not to think at all. I wanted my mind to be blank so I didn’t think of anything around me and with the distraction of each wrong turn and bump along the way, I was having a difficult time doing much besides hold the door handle with a death grip.
We found a parking spot (on the very top floor of the parking garage, of course) and upon stepping out of the car, my water broke with a big gush. My yoga pants were drenched and the cold air on my wet pants sealed the deal that I was most definitely in labor. Matt and I walked (I waddled) into the hospital as a family of two and he looked over at me and smiled. I was thinking the same thought. Here we go!
Our doula was patiently waiting for us at triage and was so thoughtful; asking how I was feeling, letting me know the next steps after the check-in process, grabbing my bag, etc. By this time my contractions had stopped, or if they were there, they weren’t strong enough for me to notice.
Ten minutes later I was in triage; laying in a bed with a hospital gown that should have been thrown away but somehow I was lucky enough to score (ripped and the ties were broken), baby monitor strapped to my belly, and a nurse (and nursing student) asking routine questions before sending me to labor and delivery. I felt good. I felt relaxed. Matt and my doula sat next to me in the darkened room (thank goodness they didn’t feel the need to turn on the fluorescent overhead light). After almost completing a game of 100 questions with very boring answers (no complicated pregnancy, no health issues, and a family health history that isn’t alarming), the nurse said that it seemed like I was going to have a relatively routine delivery and smiled.
A minute later, it was anything but “routine”.
The belly monitor that was strapped to my belly had been tracking the baby’s heartbeat. The baby’s heart rate was around 160 beats per minute and I had considered the sound of the heartbeat as white noise, until the heartbeat was no longer audible.
The thumping of the monitor that I had grown accustomed to had vanished. The nurse quickly, but calmly, rushed to my side and readjusted the baby monitor, trying to calm me down by stating that sometimes the baby moves and they have to readjust the monitor to relocate the baby’s heartbeat. However, her face seemed to be telling me more than she was actually saying. Thirty seconds later the heartbeat was found, but it was low. Fifty beats per minute is too slow.
The nurse checked to see if the baby’s cord had prolapsed, but it hadn’t. I was concerned and I could tell by the look on my doula and Matt’s face that they were, too. I asked if the baby was ok, and the nurse assured me that the baby’s heartbeat was beginning to beat at 160 beats per minute once more, but that there was concern that the baby could be under distress with the low heart rate. They quickly wheeled me out of triage and through a back way to labor and delivery. I knew that this was serious since I wasn’t wheeled in a wheelchair through the normal hallway to labor and delivery. The labor and delivery room was being prepped as I was wheeled in. The belly monitor was quickly strapped around my waist and an IV was being inserted into my left wrist. The two nurses that were helping me were so sweet and were telling me that they were going to have to keep the monitor on in order to track the baby’s heart rate so that we didn’t have another episode like in triage. In the meantime, Matt took out my birth plan that I had spent one weekend working on. I had tried to add some interest and humor to the birth plan so I didn’t look like the patient with the long “to-do” list of what I wanted my “perfect labor and delivery” to look like. They laughed at some of it as they were looking it over and said they would do their best to help me have the delivery I wanted. In the back of my mind, I knew it probably wasn’t going to happen.
Once I was settled in, the nurse left the three of us alone in the room and stated that she would be notified at her station if the baby’s heart rate was to go too low. It was 3:00pm and it was the first time I had been alone in a room with my birth team. My contractions had started while in triage and they were getting stronger. My doula and Matt were by my side, talking with me, even through contractions, but soon enough, I had to let them know I was having a contraction by simply closing my eyes and breathing in and out through my nose. Once in a while, I would even engage in conversation through a contraction because I felt “rude” if I didn’t. Ha!
I had a longer contraction and the monitors started to beep and whine. The nurse came running back into the room and grabbed the charts to see how low the baby’s heart rate was. I felt awful just laying in the bed (they had told me that I could not get up out of bed) especially knowing that there was something terribly wrong but nothing I could do. The baby’s heart rate had once more dropped, but this time even lower. A sweet doctor came in and stated that she was going to insert an internal uterine monitor. This would allow them to accurately track my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat. That was uncomfortable. A long five minutes while she attempted to insert the monitor. And this was being done through contractions. I had progressed to five centimeters, but the baby’s head was still high.
The next three hours or so are a blur. In that time frame, I had been introduced to my doctor, Dr. Bane, whom I had met once before at one of my prenatal appointments. She stated that if two more episodes occurred where the baby’s heart rate dropped again, that she would highly recommend a c-section. The baby was under distress and his heart rate never evened out. They even inserted another monitor on the baby’s skull to more accurately track his heart rate. The contractions got stronger, and I watched the charts that monitored by contractions rise and fall like mountains, praying through each contraction that the baby’s heartbeat would stay normal. I had a routine of rubbing my right thigh back and forth through a contraction praying to God to keep my baby alive. It was such a mix of emotions. I knew that if I could progress to ten centimeters, that I would do my best to push the baby out, even if it was too early. However, even though the contractions brought me closer to ten centimeters, they were also causing the baby distress and his heart rate to drop and even sky rocket. At times his heart rate would get as high as 200 beats per minute. I had asked the nurse to leave the monitor turned up so I could listen to the baby’s heart.
I listened to monitor as I tried to find a position that would not cause the baby distress. I attempted to lay in the bed first on my right, then on my left, then I was on all fours with an oxygen mask around my face hoping that one position would be better for the baby than another. When I was on all fours, everyone kept trying to get me to lower the bed so it would be more comfortable, or to have me put a pillow under my knees, or to crouch over a birthing ball that they had brought on the bed. To be honest, with a catheter, two monitors with cords coming out of my girl parts, an IV jabbed into my left hand and an oxygen mask around my face that kept getting stuck on my glasses, I was far from comfortable and my only thought was the baby’s heart rate. I could care less for my comfort. That being said, I was so appreciative for my doula and husband who were so supportive and helping me relax through each contraction. My doula was so helpful, coming to my side and gently pressing her fingers between my eyes to release tension and asking me to try to relax. Matt would hold my hand through a contraction and tell me how great I was doing.
I knew it was coming, though. I knew I was going to have a c-section. The monitors beeped and clanged one last time and this time a handful of nurses, two midwives, and two doctors rushed in. The doctor came to my bedside and checked me. I was only seven centimeters dilated. She stood by my side while Matt and my doula stood on the other side of my bed as she told me that she thought a c-section would best since it was apparent the baby was having some issues with labor and this is why his heart rate was either too high or too low. Matt had questions about the surgery which got him choked up, which got me choked up and everyone else in the room choked up (including my doctor). I asked to have a few minutes alone with my birth team.
I don’t even remember what we talked about. I do recall asking Matt to contact our parents so they could pray for us (which they had already been doing). My doula packed our bags and said she would meet us in our hospital room. Then they wheeled me toward the operating room, Matt kissed me goodbye so he could get scrubbed up and then I was pushed through the double doors into the operating room.
Operating rooms are so bright. The nurses were pleasant, though and my anesthesiologist was a trip – a chatter box really. They asked me to sit on the side of the operating table with my legs dangling. No easy task with two monitor cords dangling between my legs and an IV being in the way. One of the nurses offered me her (cold) hands and said I could squeeze as hard as I wanted since I was having another contraction just as the anesthesiologist was going to insert the giant needle into my spine. I couldn’t move through a giant contraction? Say whaaat? Oh. My. Goodness. That was one long minute!
Soon enough, I was laying on the table, Matt was by my side and my legs and torso were numb. Matt stayed right next to me and kissed my cheek. If I looked up at the big steel light that was illuminating the table, I could actually see the reflection of the doctor’s hands and myself. Yep, I watched them cut me open, suction, and pull! I looked away often enough, but I saw plenty more than I had anticipated. The tugging and pulling sensation without pain was a bit unnerving. I heard Dr. Bane say, “the baby’s head is stuck. It’s like a vacuum!” The tugging and pulling got even more aggressive as they tried to pull the baby’s head from the birth canal.
Then, at 6:46pm, there he was. A boy! All 6 lbs 8 ounces of him. I can still see his face over the drape where he was then handed over to a nurse who brought him over to the scale and warming table. Matt got up and went to his side. I turned my head to the left and tried to see my little baby boy. One of the nurses exclaimed, “he has such big feet” and I tried to see my little “hobbit” to see how big they really were. I asked Matt to take photos, but that was all I could say because I felt like I was going to be sick. My anesthesiologist put a cold washcloth over my forehead and rubbed the top of my head.
Five minutes later my little burrito (seriously it was as if I ordered a burrito with a side of baby) was brought over so I could steal a peek at all of his cuteness. It wasn’t the delivery I had hoped for. I had pictured myself giving birth naturally and pulling my baby up to my chest and holding them close as I showered them with kisses. Instead, my baby boy was held close to my face and I let our cheeks touch. He was warm. His cheeks were soft. I closed my eyes and breathed in his sweetness.
Matt and my boy left the operating room as I was stitched up and taken to recovery. I have one complaint and one thing to say about recovery after a c-section: Ummmm, do the nurses and doctors really have to press on a brand-spanking-new incision three times until the pain is so unbearable that one has to grab the sides of the bed and cry no matter how hard one tries not to make a noise??!! And is it really necessary to do this at least two more times a day while staying in the hospital? Awful. Miserable. I like to chalk up that experience to a bad nightmare.
I vaguely remember leaving recovery, passing the nurses station (where they thanked me for the goodie basket I gave them), being loaded into the elevator, and getting to my room. I do, though, clearly remember being wheeled into my hospital room where Matt sat in the corner holding our son skin-to-skin inside his plaid shirt. Matt’s smile brought tears to my eyes. He was so happy.
The lights were turned down low in the room and outside the snow was falling in the night sky. It was peaceful. The nurses and I made introductions, and an IV and pain med drip was inserted into my wrist while my doula and Matt stood by my side. Then the best moment happened. My son was laid on my chest.
Indescribable. My eyes were heavy and tired from surgery, but my heart was full. A baby. My baby. My boy. He had Matt’s ears and my lips. He was handsome. Our doula asked if we had a name…
…(three days later) yes, his name is Finnegan. Our fair, handsome Finnegan.
On January 16, we walked down the hospital halls as a family of three into the big world.
Let the adventure(s) begin!