By the time my due date was in sight, I was ready. So. Very. Ready.
Maybe it was being pregnant with a boy this time, or maybe it was because this was pregnancy number two for me, but growing a baby was not as easy this time around. Borderline polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid) that made me look and feel so much bigger so much faster, a breech baby, ridiculous swelling, Rhogam shots, two rounds of antibiotics….certainly nothing major, but still, it made my first pregnancy look like a walk in a really lovely park.
At my 39 week appointment, my doctor joked with me about the massive amount of amniotic fluid I was still carrying around, and said she hoped it would break in Walmart. (Good thing I can totally appreciate a warped sense of humor like that). I told her that would be impossible considering I don’t shop at Walmart because my mental health cannot handle it. But Target? Highly likely. And actually a scenario I welcomed because COME ON OUT BABY BOY. I was really, really ready.
I left that appointment believing he would be coming – on his own – any day now.
But unlike me, he was in no hurry. My babies must love life in the womb, because my due date of February 14 came and went uneventfully, just as it had with my daughter three years ago. And since she had weighed over 9 lbs at 9 days late, we decided to go ahead and induce me on the 16th.
Induction day arrived, and with it, the realization that I was about to face one of the hardest and best days of my life. I was excited, but nervous.
As soon as we checked in to Labor & Delivery that morning, they got me all set up on the monitors and the student nurse promptly jacked up my arm trying to start an IV. I’m a bad stick anyway, but especially since I was dehydrated from having to fast since the night before. Even the seasoned nurse they sent in had a hard time starting the IV, (I still have a scar on my arm from this one) and induced my first round of tears for the day. “Crocodile tears” as my doctor teased me when she heard I’d already been emotional and it wasn’t even 8am yet. But oh, I needed that cry. My sore arm may have been the catalyst, but it was about so much more than that. (Childbirth is a big deal.)
It was going to be a long, hard, glorious day.
At my 8am check with my doctor, I was dilated 3cm, basically the same I had been at my final OB appointment a couple days prior.
The Pitocin was running but the pain was very manageable so far. I tried to make myself enjoy the calm before the labor storm.
At 1:30pm my doctor came back to break my water. We were right – there was SO MUCH fluid. Like, an insane amount, and it was crazy to see how small my belly was when it was just a baby in there. By that time, I was still only about 3 cm dilated. I wasn’t too worried though, because I knew that the lack of fluid would allow more pressure on my cervix.
Throughout the afternoon, my contractions definitely picked up. The were getting stronger and I was having to stop and breathe through them. I felt like my body was doing a good amount of work and I was hoping for at least a couple more centimeters to be gone when they checked me again.
But at 4:25pm, I was only at 4 cm.
I was so disappointed in my lack of progress. How could my body be putting forth this kind of effort and have so little to show for it?
I thought back on my first labor and how the epidural allowed my body to relax which in turn ended up speeding up my labor. With that in mind, and the increasing strength of the contractions, I went ahead and requested the epidural. (An epidural was in my “plan” all along).
For me, the hardest part of getting the epidural is remaining completely still when they are putting it in, because your contractions don’t really care that there’s a really long needle heading into your spine…they just keep coming. Once the Anesthesiologist finished administering it, my nurse got me settled into the bed. When the Anesthesiologist came back a few minutes later to check on me, my pain level hadn’t decreased at all. That’s when she told me that she must have inserted it too shallow. The epidural hadn’t worked.
(Cue my second crying session of the day.)
She explained my options: redo the epidural (no thanks), use IV medications to provide a little relief (nope), or go without anything (HARD NO).
So although I was completely overwhelmed at the thought of removing the current epidural and having a new one placed, it was the only option that would give me the reprieve I wanted. So I agreed to try it again.
This time, it worked. PRAISE THE LORD. No, really, PRAISE HIM.
Once I could tell it was working, I felt optimistic that things were moving along. So after my doctor finished up at the office, she came over to check on me. It was just after 6pm, and I was still only 4 cm.
Then 7:30p: still 4.
FOUR. Only four! What. the. Heck.
I am fairly certain I cried at this point too. If not, I was definitely on the verge of tears, out of sheer discouragement. I knew I still had plenty of time to labor, but I had made zero progress in the past 3+ hours. What if my labor completely stalled and I had no choice but a C-section? They would only let me wait it out for so long. My number one goal in both my labors has been to avoid a C-section. I knew my body was capable of birth, and even capable of birthing a big baby, so I had far less fear about a vaginal delivery than a Cesarean.
We were also racing against another clock. My favorite doctor was working, but she was only on call until 8 am the next morning. After that, it would be a doctor I had never even met before, from another practice in town. It was very important to me that Dr. Dodson be the one present for this delivery, as she had delivered Aven, and we’d developed a bond over the years. Plus, during this pregnancy, she broke the news to me that she was moving out of state in March so this was my last opportunity for a delivery with her…ever. She and I had purposely set my induction for her call day. She had to be there. I needed her to be there.
After my bummer of a cervical check at 7:30, Dr. Dodson and the nurses really got proactive about my labor. Like, impressively so. This group of ladies working alongside me in my labor were a complete answer to some of my very specific prayers for my time in the hospital. All hands were on deck to get this baby out.
First, they decided to give my body a break from the Pitocin. They also inserted an IUPC (intrauterine pressure catheter) to monitor contractions from the inside because this tells them the strength of the contractions, not just the frequency, so we would know what kind of work my body was actually doing.
And then the GAME CHANGER: my nurse suggested using the “peanut ball”. I had no idea what she was talking about, but as soon as she said it’s been shown to progress labor, that was all I needed to hear. SIGN ME UP. (I mean…I would have tried anything at that point. Cartwheels? Headstands? Just tell me what to do.)
The peanut ball* is basically a yoga ball that’s shaped like a giant peanut. You lay on one side and it’s placed between your legs which allows your pelvis to open up so the baby can move down and into the optimal position for birth. Then they rotate you onto the opposite side every half hour or so, to allow the baby to keep moving further down into the birth canal.
1 hour and 15 mins later, I was at about 6 cm. We had progress, people! This was exactly what I needed to remember the whole purpose of this difficult day: my baby boy was waiting for me and counting on me to get him here safely. I felt renewed and encouraged to finish my labor strong.
Around 10pm (just 2 ½ hours after starting the peanut ball) I was feeling like I needed to push but thought there was no way it was time yet. I was even hesitant to tell my nurse because I didn’t want to be wrong. But to my delight and surprise, when she checked I was complete! 10 cm with the baby at a +2 station (ready to come out!) I literally could not believe it. It seemed he would have a February 16th birthday, after all.
The room evolved quickly as all the instruments and giant lights and people appeared. There was a buzz in the air of expectation and excitement. We were so close to meeting our boy!
My nurses got me prepped and let me know they had paged Dr. Dodson. They joked that as soon as she left the hospital to run home and brush her teeth was when I was ready to push. Figures.
My entire body was shaking so severely and uncontrollably that everyone kept asking if I was cold, which I certainly was not. It was impossible to hold still, and for me this was the worst side effect of the epidural. But other than that, the epidural was perfect. I could feel the contractions, but only a pressure sensation, not pain.
Before long, Dr. Dodson arrived, I breathed a sigh of relief, and it was GO TIME.
I remember feeling really calm, besides the physical shaking I was experiencing. I know it’s because I was surrounded by love and completely supported, not only by my family but also the staff. The room was filled with nurses – FILLED – and I didn’t even care. The first contraction came and I began pushing at 10:26pm. It took me a second to remember how to push effectively, but soon they were telling me I was doing a great job so I kept at it with every contraction.
I pushed through just a couple more contractions and at one point had to wait what felt like an eternity through a long pause for the next contraction to come. Soon enough his head was out and then my doctor told me I didn’t even need to push again as she carefully pulled the rest of him out. At 10:39pm on February 16, I had the unspeakable joy of meeting my son face to face for the first time.
For a second, I was in disbelief that he was finally here. That he was safe. That I actually had a son. It’s almost too much beauty to take in in a single moment. The sweetest surreal there is.
He was beautiful, and he was crying his face off. Dark hair. Tiny ears. The longest fingers and toes! (sorry, buddy..those are from me.) Smokey, dark blue eyes that searched around for our familiar voices. And he was smaller than I would have ever guessed. They placed him right on my chest and I believe the first thing I said was “he looks exactly like Aven!”
And then he peed on me. (It’s fine.)
I believe there’s a sacred kind of bliss you experience after accomplishing the hard work of childbirth, when you get the unparalleled reward of putting hands and eyes on the child you’ve dreamt about for all these months. It’s the kind of bliss that’ll make your heart break and swell all at once. I just kept thinking he’s mine! I have a son!
When Dr. Dodson finished up she came over beside me to see him again. She hugged Brandon and I and we made sure to get a picture with her. I told her again how much I was going to miss her, and joked that we must be done having babies since she won’t be around to deliver them for us anymore. But truthfully, the fact that she was the one to help bring both my babies earthside is so special to me, and I’m forever grateful for her care and love for my family. To genuinely like someone as both a person and a doctor? That’s a rare thing I think.
For the first hour after birth, no one moved him from my chest, and it was perfect. When they finally took him to get cleaned up and measured, we learned that he weighed 8 lbs 7 oz, and was 21 in long. Perfect in every way.
So as it turns out, I was right. It was a long, hard, glorious day. One that I would endure again and again to have my son here, because, well…the glory always outweighs the hard. Always.
Thank you Lord, for our sweet son, Finn. I pray that he will grow up always loving you and wanting to know you deeper. Help Brandon and I guide and shepherd his heart well. I’ll never get over this calling of motherhood that I have the privilege of experiencing. I’m so grateful. You really do give the best gifts.
February 16, 2017
8 lbs. 7 oz.
*If you’re an expecting mom and want to read more about the peanut ball, here are a couple of links I found. (I would highly recommend checking with the L&D where you’ll deliver and see if they have one. If not it might be worth it to buy your own.)
P.S., We ended up with so many beautiful images from our time in the hospital that I plan to do a follow up post with more of those. Coming soon! (All professional photos are credit D Crowe Photography)