The blog baby boy arrived nearly 2 months ago on Tuesday November 3rd at 9:15 am weighing in at a chonky 8lbs 3oz. After careful thought, some hesitation, and reliving these moments over and over in my mind, I ultimately decided that I would compose a post about how our precious Charlie came into the world. If not even for your reading, simply as another virtual journal entry for me to look back on.
As a general disclaimer: I gave birth one time. I am not an expert and don’t have any other personal reference points to compare, but can only speak for my own experiences. This is also to say that every single woman has a different experience with different and very valid feelings surrounding it all. It’s a major physical and emotional life event that looks and feels different for everyone. As a trigger warning too, I’ll be sharing a bit of somewhat graphic medical and intimate information about Charlie’s birth. Don’t worry! I don’t have photos but I’m going to write about every detail I can recall, because there is no sense in censorship if I can help someone else feel a little more prepared. I received requests anyway to share real posts- the happy and sad, the good and the bad!
So here it goes, it’s a long one. Probably my longest blog post to date:
Sunday 11/1- due date came and went, no signs of labor or baby boy. By the way, I tried all the old wives tales to try to start labor: ate pineapple, drank raspberry tea, bounced on my yoga ball for hours, went for walks… nothing really helped. Charlie was on his own schedule and did not care about being punctual for his due date.
Monday Morning 11/2- I had a scheduled appointment at my OB/GYN first thing in the morning. Because we had made it full term and past 40 weeks it was routine for me to get an ultrasound, an internal exam to check for cervical dilation, and a fetal non-stress test. They were performed in that order. Everything came back completely normal on the ultrasound and baby looked good. He was head down and even facing the right direction for birth. Upon examination, I was only about 1.5 cm dilated which was the same I had been the following week, so labor wasn’t progressing at all. Cervical exams hurt and are really uncomfortable, since women are typically already hurting and uncomfortable that late in pregnancy. My hips and pelvis had already felt stretched and strained and so the cervical exam really just added insult to injury. The non-stress test was also normal, I was contracting according to the monitor but couldn’t feel much except very mild back pain occasionally. That becomes important later. So because it appeared that baby was ready but needed a little extra help we were scheduled to be induced the next morning.
Monday Afternoon 11/2- Since there wasn’t much else left for me to do but wait until the next day, I decided to stop into work for a little bit to see my coworkers one last time, and then went over to my parents house and stayed for dinner. Throughout the day I kept feeling mild back pain but just assumed that at that point I was just uncomfortable from being so pregnant. Let’s face it, when you make it to 10 months pregnant you feel it everywhere. My mom thought otherwise, so she started to time how often I was getting back aches and gave me a heating pad to provide some relief. Her motherly instinct told her I was having back labor like she did when she was pregnant and in labor with me. At that point the back labor contractions weren’t consistent or close enough together for anyone to think otherwise. My family told me that I just looked tired by the end of the evening, from being in and out of pain.
Monday Night 11/2- We went home after dinner and my back started to hurt a lot more, so I bounced on my yoga ball for a few hours while watching TV. Then 10:00 PM rolled around and the pain became pretty regular and intense and I couldn’t get comfortable to fall asleep. I was no longer in denial and faced the facts that I was having back labor contractions. I tracked and timed the contractions on an app on my phone and sure enough it told me to head to the hospital soon. I hadn’t thought that my water broke yet so we were able to take our time loading up the car, I took a quick shower, we said goodbye to Alice and then headed in. Once admitted to the hospital the doctor saw that I had dilated a little more since the morning to 3cm. The cervix has to be at 10cm to begin pushing for delivery so we still had a ways to go. My care team and I decided to administer the pitocin drip to help progress labor since I was going to be induced in a few hours anyway. This was also decided in hopes that my water would break naturally with the progression as well. I received my epidural per my request almost immediately and that provided some comfort for the next few hours so that we could get some rest before delivery. (FYI if you get an epidural you need to have a catheter put it. It was no big deal going in since I didn’t feel anything thanks to the medication and after delivery it didn’t hurt coming out either.) Patrick, my husband, and I slept about 3 hours while baby and I were closely monitored. The nurse and doctor noticed that Charlie’s heart rate was dropping during contractions but said it was likely due to a tangled umbilical cord and that we just needed to be monitored. Pretty soon the epidural started to wear off on one side, and then the other, and I was given a few bolus doses to try to help with the pain, but alas, I continued to feel the back labor.
Now I think is the best time to state that my “birth plan” contained two items: comfort and safety. Those were the only things that mattered to me- being made as comfortable as possible and getting the baby out safely no matter what. That was absolutely honored by the team of medical professionals that cared for me and the baby.
Tuesday 11/3- I progressed to 8 cm after several more hours of excruciating back labor and nervously monitoring heart rates during contractions. My water did break at some point in the early morning hours too because I remember the nurse changing my bed pad and bed sheets. Honesty time- I was writhing in pain so much that I matted my hair in the back of my head. Patrick held my hand and tried to talk me through some deep breathing. I begged for more medication through the epidural but was unable to be given any because they thought that we could reach the point that I would be able to push soon and I needed to be able to have feeling in my lower body for that. At this point Charlie’s heart rate still wasn’t responding well to the contractions either. My doctor came in a little while later and finally said that after 10+ hours of laboring and monitoring, she believed it was best to perform a Cesarean section to deliver the baby. Several factors played a part in her coming to this conclusion:
1. The baby wasn’t able to descend further down the birth canal. His station never progressed much, even with successful cervical dilation. If you’re preparing for child birth and aren’t familiar with stations look that up. Most everyone is familiar with dilation but baby’s station is also measured, mentioned, and important. My doctor thought that my pelvis was likely too narrow to be able to vaginally deliver the baby and that he may be already stuck.
2. Because I only ever felt contractions in my back (that’s right- I NEVER had any contractions in the front during labor), that the baby had somehow turned himself around since the ultrasound the day before and was now facing the wrong direction.
3. Due to his variability in heart rates with contractions she felt that the baby might be entangled by his cord since he had turned himself around too. The safest thing to do was to have him via urgent C. section, so as to not risk any complications from developing the longer he struggled in there.
Upon hearing that I would need surgery after already laboring for so long, I cried. And not because I was really sad or upset, but because I was, of course, a little scared and also I felt relieved, because I knew that getting a spinal for the surgery meant that I would finally feel relief from the back labor and that our baby would be here quickly, safely, and SOON! So Patrick got all garbed up and they wheeled me into the OR to get me prepped.
At 9 am my surgery started. I had received my spinal and was relieved of any pain. I was glad I had gotten the epidural early on, they just used that line to administer the spinal for the surgery. Because of the IV fluids and medications my body did shake pretty violently and a lot, which was a little scary and uncomfortable. I had the sweetest OR nurses and doctors who talked me through it and told me not to fight the shakes and to just let my body do what it needed. I’m sure that my lower body and legs were restrained at that point anyway but I couldn’t feel it so it wasn’t traumatic. Something to note: Patrick was still waiting outside the OR during all of this initial preparation, but once everyone was ready to go he was brought in. He sat right by my head and made me feel safe and supported having him there. I felt no pain during the surgery: During the incision making process I felt my lower body being rocked side to side with each cut and then the separating and tears being made through each layer to get to the baby. It was unsettling but not at all painful. For a better illustration of the surgical aspect of a Cesarean delivery I highly recommend watching this video https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=utCS5rzNkfU&feature=youtu.be because it’s not an actual surgery but a really cool (and cute) simulation using Play-doh!
It all happened very quickly and at 9:15am Charlie was born. He was screaming his head off, had tons of dark hair on a substantially cone-shaped head (thanks to being stuck in my pelvis) and yet he was beautiful. It was confirmed that his cord had been wrapped around his neck, and he wouldn’t have fit for a vaginal delivery. The doctors told me I would’ve torn trying to push and then would’ve needed the c-section anyway because of his cord. I remember just sobbing and looking at Patrick and he had tears in his eyes too. I was so grateful to the doctors for being so knowledgeable and capable of getting my baby here safely and relief that everything worked out the way it needed to. I can’t imagine all of the emotions Patrick felt watching me struggle through labor and then getting to finally see the little person I had been carrying for 10 months. I saw the switch flip in an instant- he was a dad now. A proud, protective, amazing dad.
Once Charlie was born he was quickly weighed, cleaned up, swaddled, and handed to Patrick. He brought the baby over to me and I got to snuggle him face to face, skin to skin quickly before the doctors had to finish the surgery. A c-section baby daddy has vastly different responsibilities than when a baby is born vaginally. Because I still needed to be stitched back up it was Patrick’s responsibility to care for and hold Charlie in his first moments of his life. I wouldn’t have wanted or trusted any other person other than Patrick in those moments. We are so lucky he is ours.
Finishing surgery didn’t seem to take long at all, but I was eagerly anticipating being reunited with my family. Something interesting to note: the incision site was stitched on the inside with dissolvable sutures and then held together externally with steri strip bandages. My incision scar is so fine and hardly noticeable now that it is healed. As far as recovery goes I don’t have any lingering pain, just some occasional tingling and numbness in my lower abdomen from nerve regeneration, and of course the c-section “shelf” of skin and fat that forms above the incision. Small physical prices to pay to bring a miracle into the world. I’d do it all over again for the same outcome, no hesitation.
Recovery was tough but I made it through with lots of help and support. There was literally a ton of blood, sweat and tears shed for weeks. Seriously the night sweats are unbelievable. But all of the pain, discomforts, and downright shocking things that this body went through are truly incredible. We are all doing so well now, and are happily settled in as a new family.
To conclude the post I’m just going to list a few points that I learned from my own experience that I had absolutely no idea about until they happened to me.
Child Birth Clinical “Pearls”:
1. I was told by a doctor that I would have no question that I was in labor because of the contractions. I didn’t realize that it was possible for someone to have only back labor pain. I experienced no front contractions during labor and therefore didn’t believe I was actually progressing in labor until way later.
2. When an epidural is administered a weird knee reflex happens and my leg kicked out a couple of times. Though I was warned by the anesthesiologist this would happen and that it is a good sign the epidural was placed correctly I was still so surprised at how strong and violent the reflex was.
3. When I received my spinal through the epidural for the c-section surgery, it felt cold going down my spine, and then I experienced a head rush. Then I began shaking from the fluids and medication. All of those are normal effects but can still be unsettling to experience.
4. I finally did experience front contractions but it was during breastfeeding!!! I didn’t realize that because breastfeeding helps the uterus shrink back down to regular size after birth, this causes actual contraction pain. WTF! The first couple of days I was in quite a bit of pain during nursing sessions.
5. Colostrum and/or nipple ointment permanently stains clothing. Colostrum is more oily and dense than breast milk and therefore creates an enzymatic stain on fabrics. Keep the hospital gown on, don’t ruin a nightgown until actual breast milk is able to be expressed.
If you read entirely through the post and still have questions please feel free to reach out to me. I’d be happy to speak from my own experience in order to support, encourage, and prepare someone else. Thank you all for your support and encouragement of me over the years and for continuing to follow along with me, now on this new journey and adventure of motherhood! This is my last post of 2020- I’ll see you in the new year! All my love!