July 14, 2013

The Birth Story

(Disclaimer: this post will discuss in some detail the following: dilation, effacement, fluids, and other gross things that someone who hasn't given birth may cringe at reading. I'll try to keep it rated E for Everyone, but some things can't be Disney-fied.)

(Also? This is gonna be LONG.  Grab your coffee cup and settle in.)

June 30th, 2013 -- the day that changed our lives forever!  Where do I even start?!

I'll begin with Friday, the 28th of June.  I'd started my maternity leave the preceding Tuesday, after a disappointing doctor's appointment at almost 41 weeks pregnant.  I was thinning out (effacing), but there was absolutely no dilation in my cervix, and it was still quite posterior (way back).  We discussed another ultrasound and biophysical profile for the following Friday (the 28th), and then an induction set for Wednesday the 3rd of July.

On Friday morning, I was in decent spirits.  It was nice being at home with Michael, and we headed out to our ultrasound appointment.  The baby was doing great and seemed quite comfortable in his uterine home, still, so we left knowing that, by hook or by crook, we'd have a baby before the Fourth of July.

41 weeks 1 day pregnant -- the last pregnant photo ever taken!

Later that evening, we were playing Mario Party on our GameCube (don't judge!) and, as soon as we finished the game I went to the bathroom and noticed one of the first signs that labor was impending.  It's called "bloody show," which is gross, so we called it "Breaking Bad" when we talked about it (also a bloody show...get it?!).  Then the pains started.  I opened up my contraction timer app on my phone and started tracking them.  I tracked contractions til about 3am and then they slowed down enough to let me sleep.

The next morning, I felt a lot better until about 1:30pm when the contractions started again.  At this point, I wasn't even positive they were real contractions, as they were all in my lower back.  They were rising in intensity and then falling, and happening anywhere from 25 minutes to 8 minutes apart, and they were all over the place.  I'd always been told that contractions felt "like intense menstrual or poop cramps," but all of my pain was in my back.  I expected this, since we'd been told that the baby was "sunny side up" -- head down, but facing my stomach instead of facing my back.

I tracked contractions all afternoon, but tried to stay distracted, too.  We went grocery shopping for some essentials, I changed the sheets and checked the hospital bags and started some laundry, etc.  My father-in-law came over for dinner and brought pizza and we watched Apollo 13. All the while my contractions (or, "backtractions," as I called them) were getting really painful.

At one point, probably around 10pm, I had one so painful that I had to lean over the bed and focus on breathing through it. That's when I felt a tiny gush that made me think my water might finally be breaking.  I called the hospital and asked if that was reason enough to come in, and she said the only way to know was to check the fluids.  So, Michael and I asked my father-in-law if he'd mind staying with the dog overnight, just in case, and we grabbed all of our stuff and went to the hospital!

We arrived at the hospital at 10:30pm and checked in and I got changed into a hospital gown.  The nurse checked my cervix, and I was at 2cm.  She took a sample of fluids and told me it would take about a half hour to an hour for the results, and that we should walk the halls to see if that helped me progress.  She said that if the fluids were indeed amniotic OR if my cervix changed at all, we'd stay and have a baby!

Michael and I walked the halls for almost exactly one hour, and at this point I could barely walk through the contractions.  I had to lean over for each one, and Michael would rub my back for me, and then we'd keep walking. I had broken a pretty good sweat by the time we went back to the room and the nurse showed me how to lean across the bed and stretch my hips back and forth to alleviate the back labor a little bit.

Once the results came back negative for amniotic fluid (yeah...you pee your pants sometimes when you're pregnant, apparently!), she checked me again and I had progressed to just over 3cm.  That was it! We were staying!

I labored with Michael's help until about 3:00am, when the back labor was so bad that moaning and stretching and breathing through them was not helping at all. My legs were shaking so badly that I could barely stand up.  After 4 hours, I had only progressed to 4cm. This is when I had to admit to myself that my birth plan was going to change:

I wanted that damn epidural.

And then I cried for wanting that damn epidural.

But you guys? Back labor is no joke.  Imagine trying to pass a basketball through your butt while someone is trying to slowly bend your spine into a pretzel.  That's close to how it felt.  I tried the relaxation and visualization techniques and I tried focusing on the baby trying to come out and meet us, but by a certain point I could only see pain and colors.  That's the best way I can describe it.  There was no focus anymore, and I knew I couldn't physically handle possibly being in labor for hours and hours more.

The anesthesiologist showed up at 3:30am, and this guy was GOOD.  I absolutely hated the process of getting the epidural, but he was clutch.  All in all, he moved quickly and efficiently.  But I wouldn't have made it through the process without Michael and my delivery nurse, Angela.  They both had their arms around me and I sobbed as I tried to sit perfectly still with my contractions still going on IN my back, where the epidural was going.  Once it was in, though, it kicked in quickly and I felt so much relief.  The only slightly scary part was that my BP dropped significantly pretty quickly, but they gave me some ephedrine and strapped on the (horrible, devil, bastard) BP cuff and it went off every 3 minutes after that.  Baby's heart rate was stellar the whole time.

We both tried to get some sleep then...Michael got about two hours and I slept about ONE.  Then I woke up and texted our parents and my Labor Buddy, Allison, to let them know we were having a baby that day. I was pretty amused by my "E.T. Phone Home" finger, as you can see...

(Dads get such a crappy deal with those horrible hospital "couches")

At 6:45am, my new nurse, Erin (who was the sweeeeeeeeetest nurse on the planet!) came in and told me that my contractions had stalled at 7 minutes apart while I rested.  While on the epidural, my fears had been realized: labor had slowed.  I was only at 5cm by this point.  They called the midwife on call (Dr. V was not on call that weekend, which was a little bit of a bummer), and my options were to turn off the epidural and let my body try to kick back into gear, or start the Pitocin.

Since I felt a little more clear-headed due to the absence of pain and after some rest, I decided "Here's my chance to get back to my birth plan. I don't want Pitocin."  So we shut off the epidural.

By 8:45am, I was feeling contractions again, but they were dull to begin with.  The baby's HR dropped suddenly and they had to put the oxygen mask on me.  When she checked me, she said it was likely because the baby had very quickly moved to a 0 station, and that can make their HR slow down a bit.  The midwife suggested that I change positions every 30 minutes so that we could maybe get baby to spin around and face down.  I leaned forward, I sat on my knees with my arms up over the back of the bed, I laid on both sides...and the contractions were picking up some major steam again.

At 9:30am, the midwife came in and gave me three options: Pitocin, breaking my water, or go home and keep laboring.  The last one was completely out of the question, and I was still trying to be a hero and avoid the Pitocin, so we broke my water manually.  That turned out to be a game changer.

I was sobbing and begging for the epidural to be turned back on after that, and the anesthesiologist finally got there a little before noon. He made some snide remark (this was a different guy, by the way) about how "you NEVER turn it off," but I didn't care. He could've called me a stupid bitch and I still would've hugged him for turning it back on for me!

With the epidural going again, my only option was Pitocin, so I finally gave in. I was between 5 and 6 cm dilated and completely physically and emotionally exhausted!

By 2pm, I was resting fairly comfortably with the epidural. I was still only at 6cm, but the baby's head was very far down and pressing hard against my cervix.  They kept upping the Pitocin so that I would dilate more, and I did start to feel contractions again, but they were very dull and more like the menstrual/poop cramps I'd been told about.  They were dull, but intense.  I had to breathe through them sometimes, but it was nothing like the back labor I'd been experiencing.  The nurse said she'd come back at 5pm and check me again.  I was starting to get nervous and cried a little thinking about how if this kept going, despite rising levels of Pitocin, I might have to get a C-section.

Michael and I turned on the Red Sox game on the laptop and my mom came by to visit and bring me a goodie bag with some toiletries and a super cute nightgown for me to wear postpartum, and she left a little before 4pm.

At 4, the nurse came in quickly and put the oxygen mask on me because the baby's heart rate had gone way down again.  Her urgency frightened me a little bit, and I hated wearing the oxygen mask (side note: I hated ALL of the "hospital-y" stuff...all the wires, the BP cuff, the IV, the mask...I felt like a patient instead of a laboring mother...).  She checked me then and said "Wow, you're at a 10! You're ready to push!"

I immediately started crying, which alarmed her, and Michael assured her, "Don't worry; I know that cry.  That's relief!"  This was it!  I was going to have a baby and we were finally going to meet our son or daughter!  They called the midwife, and she was very excited for me, but it was going to take her about 45 minutes to get there from another city.  So Michael sent out a mass text to our family and told them they could come to the waiting room for a gender announcement, but we still wanted at least 2 hours of family bonding time once he or she arrived.

The midwife arrived at about 4:50pm, and everything that happened then was kind of a blur.  Nursery workers came in to prep the table for the baby's weight and APGAR tests, NICU nurses came in because they'd seen meconium in my water and would need to check the baby if there was no immediate crying, and my dark and cozy delivery room suddenly felt like an operating room as the bright spotlights came down from the recessed ceiling lighting.

I pushed for a full hour.  It was the most difficult thing I've ever done because, while I could feel contractions coming, and I could feel my legs (both of which were incredibly helpful as I pushed through each contraction), I could feel nothing in my pelvic region.  So,  pushing probably took longer than it would have otherwise, because I kept doing it wrong.  It was the most physically demanding thing I've ever done.  I remember bursting out laughing once as the midwife explained to Michael that she was using lotion/massage techniques to keep me from tearing and she called it "WD-40 for the vagina."  Everyone was surprised at how hard I laughed, even between pushes, but come on...that's funny stuff!!

I used the oxygen mask between contractions mostly as a placebo, so that I would refocus on breathing each time.  She asked me if I wanted to use the  mirror to push more effectively, but a) I was afraid of seeing that much detail, and b) I couldn't keep my eyes open during each push if I wanted to! I felt like my eyeballs were going to squeeze out of my head.

Finally she said, "the baby's crowning, do you want to feel the head?" I agreed, and she guided my hand down and I felt my baby's soft head! It was the most surreal and amazing thing, and it really gave me the strength I needed to get him or her the rest of the way out. The team around me kept encouraging me, and suddenly the baby was OUT!

The midwife lifted that baby high so that Michael could yell out "Oh my god, it's a BOY!"  They put that screaming, wet little baby right on my stomach and into my arms, and I wept like a child myself.  All 41 week and 3 days of my pregnancy, I never really believed that I was going to have an actual baby...and then there he was!

They piled blankets on top of us, and Michael came up by my head and kissed me while I cried and helped wipe my baby clean.  I am crying as I type this part, because it was, by far, the most magical moment I have ever experienced.  Even if I'm a hundred years old and I can't remember the name of the person who last changed my adult diaper, I will never ever forget Michael's excited voice, the sound of my son's first cries, and his squirmy and warm little body on my naked chest.

Zachary Michael made his debut at 5:56pm on June 30th, 2013, weighing in at 8lbs, 4oz, and at 21 inches long.  Now, enjoy the pictures:

Moments after birth (but after we'd both cleaned up a little)
First family photo
First bath in the nursery (I didn't get to see this!)
Big hands and feet!
First morning with Daddy
First morning with Mommy
My little blue-eyed handsome man
Going home to start the real adventure!
So, there were a lot of things that didn't happen the way I had "planned," and that has extended into being home with Zach (which I'll go into in another post very soon).  I never planned for back labor, which completely changed the game regarding medications during labor & delivery.  But the result? Was a perfect baby with high APGAR scores and a perfect little round head and lungs that make his singer mommy & daddy very proud!

We missed Dr. V (he stopped by a day or so later to say hello in the hospital), but the midwife on duty was incredible.  I survived with a small second-degree tear, one perineal tear, and a tiny hemmorhoid (ew, right?), and healing has gone WAY better than I was expecting it to.  So much so that I have to remind myself that I'm still supposed to take it easy and not lift anything heavier than Zach.

The labor & delivery and the postpartum nurses were absolute angels for the most part, and our experience overall was quite good (though we were READY to go home on that second day...more on that later).

And the best part of all?

I have a SON.  A precious and perfect baby boy.  And that's all that matters.


  1. So happy for you Mandy and thank you for posting the birth story! Such a touching moment to share with all of us!

  2. ALL THE FEELS! I'm so happy you avoided the c-section. (I know they save lives, and I get that mine were necessary, but yeah - they suck.)
    Also, this:
    "I wanted that damn epidural.

    And then I cried for wanting that damn epidural."
    I KNOW. I know, man.
    Congratulations. :-)

  3. Man, what a story! You've got ME crying! This is so beautiful and I am so thrilled for you guys. Zach is a PERFECT little baby boy!

  4. I just skipped to the end... but YAY! Congrats on your new chapter in life : )

  5. I love this. I was so worried for you and so relieved when I read about the moment of his birth. So powerful & beautiful! You rock, Mama!

  6. SHOCKER, I totally cried through this post. I cannot wait to see you and that perfect little baby boy SOON!!!! xoxo

  7. What a magical story, Mandy! I've got tears in my eyes just from reading it. He's absolutely perfect, and you are amazing. Congrats, you two!

  8. OMG!! Loved the story. Very well told and I felt like I was there!!!

  9. You did great Mandy. Congratulations, and thanks for sharing. You'll be glad you wrote such detail, especially when he's older and you can read it to him!

  10. Congratulations!!!! He is so cute and I love the name.

  11. Congratulations on the birth of your little man! I'm sorry you suffered such bad back labor. I had a very similar experience with birthing my son - I was in terrible, terrible back labor the entire time. It was awful. But somehow you get through it and there's the most precious thing waiting for you on the other side! He's beautiful :)