Note: This post was written in pieces throughout the first year of my son’s life. It’s been emotional and beautiful to relive! It will be detailed and graphic in some parts. It’s a birth story! I won’t say sorry for that. But, I apologize for confusion in timing, or poor grammar/editing, but I hope to keep some of the rawness in the original writing.
As I sit here typing these words on my phone, my sweet two month old boy lays across my lap napping. I think he’s showing signs of early teething because lately one of the only ways to get him to sleep is by laying him belly down across my lap, patting his back with one hand, and letting him chomp down his gums on my finger with the other. Often he cries and cries and calms when a bit of clove oil is rubbed on his gums and he can chew on a finger or his fist. It’s hard for me to believe this boy was ever not with us. It’s hard to believe nine weeks ago today, at 5am I began a 36 hour marathon I will never forget.
(Update: he was totally teething! Poor guy finally got that first tooth when he turned 4 months old!)
It all began the evening of August 7th. I was 40 weeks and 1 day pregnant, and feeling every bit of it. My feet and ankles had been permanently swollen for about two weeks, no matter how often my amazing husband massaged them. My back ached, my organs compressed, I was zapped of energy. I had been trying all the natural ways to induce labor and although I was dilated to 3cm and 60% effaced (labor jargon), I knew I could stay that way for a long time, maybe a couple more weeks. Still, I felt nervous excitement every day, wondering when I went to sleep each night if I’d wake up to a wet bed or heavy contractions. I didn’t know what contractions felt like, because I hadn’t really had any Braxton & Hicks until that weekend, and had a hard time believing this light cramping was anything like what I imagined a labor contraction to be. I went to sleep that night as usual, after a little massage from my already exhausted husband, and wondered, “will this be it?”
Tossing and turning, I didn’t rest easy or well. I was up often to pee, and my thoughts were consumed with the cleaning I hadn’t done and the things I hadn’t packed in our hospital bag, the fact we hadn’t learned how to install the baby’s car seat, and the worries of all the unknowns. I felt my little cramps, hardly thinking about them until 5am when I woke up (no wet bed) but to stronger feeling cramps that seemed consistent. I woke Rich up to let him know. “Sleep” he said, “we’ll see if they get stronger and I can time them” so I tried to sleep.
By 8am I was still feeling them, not stronger, but close together, about 10-15 mins apart. Rich decided to go in to work and get as much done as possible, knowing this was probably it. He promised to run home if they got painful or closer together. He asked me to please sleep and eat as much as I could. He reminded me of all the birth stories we’d watched and read, where women in labor hadn’t rested enough or eaten enough in early labor and they lost steam when the real hard work kicked in. So, I snacked on homemade energy bites, coconut water, naked juice, but nothing substantial sounded good. I was nauseated. This lack of eating real food would come to haunt me later.
At about 10am, although my contractions were still only every 8-15 mins, they were becoming what I’d always imagined them to feel like: painful. I called Rich and he was home ten mins later. I had called my mom and Sarah, our good friend and doula, to let them know today seemed like the day.
We had decided to have the baby in a hospital birthing center with midwives, since it was our first and Rich was nerveous going through the unknown outside a hospital setting, but we still wanted things as natural and holistic as possible.
We started wondering when we should go in, because we didn’t want it to be too early, so we called the midwives (Rich most def made references to the show), and Rose, my favorite, was on call! She recommended waiting as long as possible and resting and taking a bath or shower. I tried to sleep in between contractions for a little longer and Rich held me when I wanted him to. We both napped throughout the early afternoon and I then took a bath to see if it would stop contractions or get things moving faster. Nothing changed. Finally, at about 4:30 pm, the contractions were so painful I began to lose much talking ability. They were about 5-7 mins apart, but when Rich called my mom and Sarah and I could barely talk except to say, “Please, let’s go, please!” Or nod or shake my head to things, they knew it was time.
Sarah pulled the car up and Rich grabbed all our things. I had remembered early in the day to add all my last minute toiletries to our bag. We started for the elevator to go down the three flights and I had to stop and breathe through a contraction in front of some neighbors. I was furious to be laboring during the day when I had to pass people I knew! There was a neighbor in the elevator and I remember begging my body to wait on the next contraction until we got off! Haha! Thankfully it obeyed, but I had the most painful one yet in the car. My mom met us by the back door and my sister-in-law, Becca, happened to be visiting and saw us leaving. She said something, but I’m not sure what. On the drive to the hospital I think I asked my mom if this got worse.
Checking into triage was the second worst part of the entire birthing experience (the worst was actually postpartum). Two different midwives checked my dialation, which was painful and annoying. I was in a room with another woman in labor who seemed to be on drugs and had family with her. For some reason, since our doula was parking, and Rich and my mom were bringing in stuff and trying to get us a room quickly, I was alone for likely 15-20 minutes but it felt like hours.
Fast forward to the next day. After laboring all night and all morning, I finally got the green light to push. The combination of not eating, drinking, or peeing enough made the pushing time extra difficult and extra long! It really was not very painful, which may be hard to believe, but bodies release so many cool hormones and some adrenaline at this point and it helps. It seemed to require more strength than I had, so 3 hours of pushing later, and I was FINALLY getting my baby! I had my eyes closed in focus for so long, that when I opened them, surrounding me were a sea of doctors and nurses making sure I wouldn’t need an emergency c-section. They all had masks and gloves on and everything. Rich looked exhausted and emotional, my mom and Sarah were near my feet giving me directions along with my not-very-present-or-adept midwife. I pushed my last time. Rich had originally wanted to catch the baby, but it took so long and we were all so exhausted that we were just excited to have a baby out by then!! It was 2:36pm, a hot summer Tuesday afternoon, August 9th 2016, and we looked at our baby in awe. They put the baby skin-to-skin on my chest for a minute, then whisked him away to check his vitals and heart. They were worried because of the long labor, but the baby was healthy and strong! We were in shock and I was in a haze but finally asked, “is it a boy or a girl?” Nobody knew, so Sarah said, “Dad, go look!” And Rich went to the nurse who was measureing our baby, lifted him up and announced, “it’s a BOY!”
The emotion in my husband’s voice at that moment was too much to bear, I burst into weak tears. I wanted to hold my baby boy! My Theodore Ventura! My baby! I couldn’t believe for 9 and a half long months it had been this little BOY the whole time! I didn’t have strength. I felt weak. Rich whipped off just shirt and put Theo skin to skin with him while the doctor finished some examining, then he brought our sweet son to me. I was blacking out, asking for help. He tried to let me hold Theo, but I couldn’t. I had no strength and my arms were shaking. The midwife and everyone had left to get everything together to come stitch up my episiotomy, but I hemorrhaged. So much blood loss and so little fuel in my body, I nearly blacked out. This was the scariest and hardest part of the labor and birth, this postpartum haze. I don’t remember much, other then asking for help and telling them I couldn’t see. All was blurry or black, and noises buzzed.
They hooked me up to an IV of fluid. I started to come to. They stitched me up and kept a good eye on me. Rich held Theo skin to skin and then when I felt better, held him on my chest for me. It became a beautiful postpartum time, but only after medications and a room to ourselves. But thinking back on the crazy ride, the hard moments, the beautiful ones, I still get the rush of endorphins, the hormone highs. It’s amazing! My memories are pieced together, but I’m so grateful for the experience. I’m grateful for going a natural, drug-free route (as far as the hospital let me) because I felt it all, what my body was doing was a miracle and I was in every moment.
The rest of the evening I was doted on by Rich and staff, and cuddling and working on nursing me my sweet baby boy! I seriously can’t believe he will be ONE in ONE WEEK!
Feel free to comment and share your experiences or stories! Or asked questions because there are a lot of details I know we’re left out.