It has taken me a long time to put this post together. Besides getting through the first months with baby, we’ve also moved back to Florida (that’s another post for another day). For a while I wasn’t sure if I should share it. I had read a lot of birth stories during my pregnancy and it didn’t feel to me like a “typical” birth story. It was a long labor. Nothing happened the way I imagined it would happen. Start to finish it was 44 hours from when contractions began to when Jayden came into the world. But enough time has passed for me to realize that what is most important is that my baby arrived and is now healthy and growing. This is our story.
Leading up to his birth I was done with pregnancy. I was exhausted all the time and really having a lot of pain in my pelvic area. At around 36 weeks, an ultrasound showed him measuring at about 7 1/2 pounds. That meant he could gain up to a half a pound a week until his birth. So I was potentially looking at a 9lb plus baby. And while they say ultrasounds aren’t always accurate, I knew it was. I knew he was a big baby. My belly was bigger than ever and it was getting harder to maneuver around. I was determined to have him as close to his due date as possible.
I started to have some cramping about a week before his birth which I realized were Braxton Hicks contractions. I was almost completely effaced but only .5 centimeter dilated. It was encouraging because all I needed was to dilate. To get things going I walked every day sometimes twice a day. I drank raspberry leaf tea. I also started eating spicy foods. I can’t say if any of it really worked but I went into labor on my due date on April 25th around 10pm. I was on my birthing ball and we were watching tv when I first felt some cramping. I felt like they were real contractions, but waited for the third or fourth to really declare I felt contractions. I had decided that I didn’t want an epidural. I didn’t feel very strongly about going without it. I just didn’t like the idea of not feeling my legs or having a needle in my back. I listened to hypnobirthing and practiced breathing techniques all of which helped me so much.
The contractions kept coming through the night and I didn’t really get any sleep. They were bearable but no matter how much I wanted to, sleep just wasn’t going to happen. By the next morning around 8am I was contracting every 2-3 minutes and we headed to the hospital. By the time we got there and got checked in, I was contracting every minute for about a minute each time. I wasn’t getting much of a break but I was still prepared to continue without an epidural. When they checked me, I was 1.5 cm dilated. I wasn’t even in active labor yet. They decided I might be dehydrated and that’s why the contractions weren’t causing any dilation. So they gave me IV fluids. I walked the halls and tried to nap in the triage area while they waited to see if I made any improvements. After a few hours the contractions spaced out again but I hadn’t dilated any more. They don’t admit patients that aren’t in active labor (around 5cm) dilated unless they request an epidural. At that point, we thought maybe my dehydration was the reason I wasn’t dilating and I left the hospital to continue laboring at home around 3pm. We actually stopped at Joan’s on Third to get something to eat. I got the Chinese Chicken Salad and ate the whole thing. I was starving. I kept having to stop and breathe between bites. As big as I was, I’m sure people were worried I was about to have my baby any second.
I had not slept since the day before so I tried getting some sleep once we got home but the contractions weren’t letting me. I got into the bathtub to relax and work through the contractions. I was probably in there close to 2 hours. My mother was with me for a lot of this labor portion. She was so helpful in helping me time the contractions and count me down until the next one. Around 8pm my contractions were back to 2-3 minutes apart and over a minute long and again we headed to the hospital.
When I arrived, they checked me again and I was only 3.5 cm dilated. I knew I had to make a decision at that point. That was a very small improvement and I knew I had much further to go. Having still only gotten an hour or two of sleep here and there since the day before, I could tell I could not continue at this pace. I needed rest to be able to get to the pushing phase. At 10pm, after 24 hours of labor, I decided to get my epidural. The process of getting the epidural was not nearly as bad as I had imagined it to be in my head. It was actually less painful than getting the IV put into my wrist. Pretty soon I was pain free and I was ready to get some rest.
We waited to see if I dilated at all on my own but at 4am on the 27th, I was still only 4cm dilated. We decided to start Pitocin. That was also not in my plans, but I spoke with my doctor and we agreed my body needed assistance in dilating. I was able to get another few hours of sleep which was so important. I woke up to the sound of my water breaking in the early morning around 6am and I was able to see the sunrise. I knew that morning it was the day I would finally get to meet my baby. I just didn’t realize how much longer I had to go. My mom and sister arrived a few hours later.
Around 2pm, I was finally fully dilated and ready to start pushing. It was at that moment I started to feel contractions in my lower back. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. Our baby J was sunny side up and had turned himself diagonally and lower into my pelvis. I had been able to get through the previous contractions, but these were on a different level. With each wave that came I tried focusing only on my breathing and resting before the next one. Tears began streaming down my face. I couldn’t control it. The combination of exhaustion and hormones was starting to wear on me and I began to despair. We decided to wait until the anesthesiologist came back to give me more medication before starting to push. While we waited, my mother came over to me and prayed with me to Our Lady of Charity. I had been praying to her during my pregnancy for a smooth delivery and birth. As I listened to the words my mother was saying, the next contraction was noticeably more tolerable. And the next and the next. The anesthesiologist was able to give me more medication and once again I was ready to push. I truly believe the Virgin Mary heard our prayer and gave me a new wave of strength to be able to birth my baby.
At just about 3pm I started pushing. They warned me it would take a long time, but I really had no idea it could take as long as it did. Zeus was right by my side the whole time and helping me count. The nurse actually stopped counting because he was doing such a great job encouraging me. He was the ultimate coach. He gave me ice chips and made sure I was drinking and staying hydrated. He was my hero that day.
The doctor came in which was deceiving. I was told he comes in the last 20 minutes. He was there probably a total of an hour and a half. I sprung a fever somewhere in the middle and they administered antibiotics through my IV for the infection. As the epidural wore off, I could feel the contractions again and it was just enough to help me be more productive in my pushing. I asked the doctor how much longer he thought I would be there. He was thinking about it a lot and I said “Don’t answer that.” If he had to think about it that much, I probably didn’t want to know. I had read so many birth stories where people said they did three pushes and the baby came out. That is not my story.
Finally I saw the NICU team come into the room. I knew we were close and that gave me a new incentive. There was meconium in my waters, so they needed to be there as a precaution. I pushed as hard as I could through the contractions and he finally slipped out. Our baby was born at 5:50pm on April 27th after 3 hours of pushing. I immediately felt relief but everything after that was a blur. I was instantly overcome with emotion as I tried to catch my breath. I remember the doctor held up Jayden and I heard Zeus whisper in my ear “It’s a boy.” They put him on my chest for what felt like just a moment before the NICU began checking him and making sure he was okay.
It was at this point that they discovered a subgaleal hemorrhage. It is more typical in babies born with forceps, and although my doctor didn’t use any our baby may have suffered some trauma getting through my pelvis. They informed us that they would need to take him to the NICU and depending on his condition may need a blood transfusion. My extreme joy was replaced with concern, but I wasn’t scared. I believed he would be okay. They were ready to take him away again, but my husband asked them to please allow me to hold him for just a couple minutes while they waited for the transport. I am so grateful for that because I was still in a bit of shock. They placed him in my arms all swaddled up. So much hair! It was peaking out from underneath his cap. I studied his face. The thing I remember most were his eyelashes. They were so long and pointing downward just like his father’s eyelashes. He looked up at me and then looked at Zeus. Within minutes he was whisked away to the NICU.
It would take me over two hours to get to be reunited with my baby. They had to check me and make sure I was okay first. For months I held on to that feeling of him being taken away in those moments after his birth. I felt so empty when they took him. The life I had carried for 9 months and had gone through so much to deliver was no longer there. More than anything I wanted to have the skin to skin time with my baby; to hold him close and try to nurse him right away. At the same time I was appreciative that he was getting the care he needed. Thankfully, he made a full recovery and I am so grateful to the doctors and nurses that made sure he and I were okay.
I still tear up when I think of his birth or look at the photos. Although it didn’t feel like the perfect birth story to me, I know I would do it all over again to feel the joy he has brought into our lives every day since then. I am so thankful for him and to have this memory captured forever.
Hospital photos by Jeannette Polynice of quinnmoss.co