Happy Friday everyone!
It’s officially been 4 weeks since we welcomed Henry (a.k.a. Hank, Little Man, Handsome, Hankster) into our lives. It’s been a wonderful month of snuggles, spit up, tired nights, naps for both parents and child, family visiting and just learning to go with the flow or with Hanks not so much of a schedule. Since giving birth, I’ve received a few notes from people who were curious about Hank’s birth story so here goes. P.S. Please bear with me because Little Man is sleeping for I’m not sure how long so I’m going to try to get this down as quickly as possible!
As many of you know my due date was October 19th. Everyone knows due dates are just estimates, but for 9 months you picture that day in your head and think no matter what baby will be here by then. No matter how many people tell you that first time mom’s typically are “late”, you still think you are exempt from this because after all your mom and sister were both early right? Wrong! October 19th came and went and still no baby boy in sight. The good news is Paul was home to endure the waiting with me because his squadron left him behind from a 2 week detachment in order to ensure he was home for the birth. We ended up getting a lot of quality time in that week with morning walks, last minute projects and forced labor. Yes, Paul made me mow the lawn to try to induce labor. FYI it didn’t work, but I hear it does work for some people.
Anyway, October 19th came and went and we had no signs baby was even thinking about coming until October 22nd hit. Paul and I were watching a movie on the couch in the afternoon and all of a sudden I started to feel what I would describe as light menstrual cramps. I had been experiencing lots of Braxton Hicks that week associated with a lot of belly tightness, but never any sort of pain. My radar was up and I started to look to see if these pains were coming in any sort of pattern. They were at first. Every 7-8 minutes I would feel a little cramp, but then it would go 15 minutes so I knew this pattern wasn’t enough of anything to really get too excited. As the evening went on, we settled down to some Thursday night football watching and the cramps were still coming, but still no pattern. It was finally time for bed (around 9p.m.) and I was still having cramps. They were strong enough that I really wasn’t able to fall asleep. Plus, we have one of those crazy clocks in our bedroom that reflects the time onto the ceiling so of course I was staring at that trying to see if these pains were coming in a pattern yet! 10 o’clock went by, then 11 o’clock, then midnight. I started thinking “alright, if this is going to happen today I have got to get some sleep so I’m ready to push this baby out.” Sleep, however, never came.
At 2 o’clock I got up to use the bathroom and I realized I had lost my mucous plug. Those of you who have had children, know what this means. Everyone else can google it if you are curious, otherwise I’ll spare you the details. Needless to say things started to progress quickly after that. The cramps became a lot more painful and started coming every 5 minutes. I decided to go watch some TV to pass the time, since I knew we needed to monitor them for an hour before we could even think about going to the hospital. Unless your water breaks, the hospital doesn’t really want to see you until you are seriously in active labor. I turned on Law & Order S.V.U., an episode I’d been saving for a rainy day and began timing the duration and frequency of the contractions. One Law & Order episode complete and I had noted contractions were every 5 minutes, for at least 1 minute for an entire hour. Time to wake up Paul.
I told him he might want to get up and shower because we should get ready to go to the hospital. He showered, I showered, we fed the cats, I continued to monitor contractions, we packed any last minute items, I packed a food satchel for Paul (which he gets a kick out of me making a PB & J for him while I’m having contractions). It helps to stay busy okay?!
Around 4:45 we left to drive to the hospital about 15 minutes away. We got to the check-in counter and they asked some questions, then decided to put us in a room to start some monitoring. After about an hour, the nurse could definitely tell I was having contractions, but I was only 1cm dilated. She called our doctor who decided it was best for us to go home to labor some more because she knew I wanted to have as few interventions as possible and being admitted this early as a first timer would mean they would definitely have started me on Pitocin or something to speed things up. I’m going to be honest, I was pretty devastated to be sent home, especially when the nurse said it could still be days until our little man appeared. What? Days!? Please, tell me this is not going to last days! I shed a few tears to Paul and then he helped escort me back to our car and drove us home. They said to come back when I’m actually in active labor (i.e. contractions 3 minutes apart, getting stronger and more intense). Roger.
We got home around 7 AM and as soon as we got there things definitely got more intense. Paul put on a Harrison Ford classic, The Fugitive, to help pass the time, but there was no way I could focus on the movie. All I could think about was getting through the pain, but I couldn’t find any position to make me comfortable. Walking around helped the most, but I knew I was supposed to try to relax through contractions. It’s pretty hard to relax when you are walking around. Before I had ever felt a real contraction, I really wanted to try to go as natural as possible with childbirth (i.e. no epidural, no Pitocin, no C-section, etc.) However, from the moment we got home and the contractions got more intense and closer together, all I could think about was that epidural. I asked Paul if he’d be upset with me for getting one when we got back to the hospital and he of course said “Sweetie, anything that is going to help you and our baby is fine with me.” Love him. I had originally told him to not let me do it no matter what I said, but I think he realized how delirious with pain I was and that I was going on no sleep. He knew I needed to rest before pushing out this baby.
After me writhing on the floor every 3 minutes in pain, telling Paul how much it hurt we decided this HAD to be active labor and we needed to head back to the hospital. It was around 10:15am. They definitely received us differently this time. It was now obvious I could not answer any questions, I could not even look them in the eyes. Any surface I could lean on was my new best friend and they got us to a room quickly to start more monitoring. This time we had a different nurse, Martha, who actually was our birth class instructor. She was excited to get assigned her former students and we were excited to have her! She immediately checked to see if I had dilated anymore and I was now at a “stretchy 3cm” and 90% effaced. Wow! That was definitely progress. She called our Doctor again and she still didn’t want to admit me! She wanted me to walk around outside the hospital to get a little further along. In her defense, she still thought I was thinking “natural” childbirth at this time, but I assured her I wanted the epidural as soon as possible. In this case, she was willing to admit us. Martha got the blood and urine sample started and then notified the anesthesiologist that she was wanted in our room, stat. It took about 30 minutes for the samples to go through, and then it was epidural time, around 12:30 pm. I always heard how amazing this was, but seriously, I felt nothing from the time they administered it, until it was time to push. I think Paul was just as relieved as I was. There’s really not many things more difficult than to see your mate in so much pain.
The rest of the afternoon was pretty relaxed. That was probably the best thing about the epidural, the ability for me to sleep. Up until this point I hadn’t slept in 36 hours and had technically been in labor for about 16 of those hours. After giving me the epidural, they said they might have to give me Pitocin if I didn’t progress far enough at their next check. Luckily, my body continued to progress on it’s own. Martha came in to check me at 2:30 and I was 5 cm, then again at 4:30pm and I was 7cm, then at 6:00pm I was at 9cm. They came back to check me at 7 and I was still at 9cm so the doctor recommended starting Pitocin just to give my body the extra kick it needed to reach full dilation of 10cm. After about 15 minutes, I had the urge to push. Unfortunately, the doc was on call and had gone home for the evening. The nurse said legally they couldn’t let me push until the doctor was there so I had to wait. At this point, I wasn’t in pain, but was able to feel the pressure from each contraction, which was great because I knew exactly when to push when the doctor finally arrived. Doc got there around 7:55pm. It’s amazing the amount of people who suddenly show up in your delivery room when it’s time to push. I seriously think there were like 6 people cheering me on, including the lady who gave me the epidural.
It took pushing through about 5 contractions for Henry to be born at 8:16pm and it was truly amazing. Paul was by my side the entire time and got to cut the umbilical cord. They placed Hank on my chest as soon as he came out, but quickly swept him away to the incubation station in the room to try to get him to cry loudly. He was breathing fine, but they really like to hear a loud cry to ensure the lungs are clear of fluid. Meanwhile, the doc started stitching me up since I had a little bit of tearing (understandable when you just pushed a tiny human out of the smallest opening possible). Paul likes to compare it to toothpaste coming out of it’s bottle. I know, thanks for the visual Pauly. I was definitely a little worried for out little man because they kept trying to get him to cry and even called in some specialists from the NICU. I really hadn’t gotten a good look at him either because they no sooner laid him on my chest and then swept him away. At around 8:45pm, they got the cry they wanted and were able to continue with getting little man’s birth stats: 6lbs 1oz and 19.5″ long (such a little peanut). The room cleared out pretty quickly after that and Paul and I were left alone to get acquainted with our new little dude.
It’s amazing how quickly you forget about all of the discomfort and pain your body just went through when you finally get to see the little face you’ve been picturing for 9 months or longer if you’re the type whose always dreamed about what your kids would look like. For those of you currently expecting and nearing your delivery date and/or those of you who would like to some day, please don’t be scared by anything I’ve written here. Everyone’s experience is different and pain is only temporary. God fearfully and wonderfully made the female body to endure the amazing experience of childbirth. You can do all things through Him who strengthens you!
(Photo credit for above photo goes to Savanna Morgret, Birth Services & Photography).