Whew! It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks over here. If you follow me on social media or read my mom's blog then you know that we welcomed our little boy into the world on Thursday, June 16th. And since then we have been in a delightful baby fog that is full of snuggles, baby watching, sleepy eyes (ours and his), more snuggles and figuring out the whole parenting thing. I have all kinds of things I want to share about these first few weeks but before I forget all of the details (mom brain is even more serious than pregnancy brain!), I want to record his birth story. Birth stories are not for everyone so feel free to skip this post if you don't care to read those details. But June 16th was the most wonderful, life changing day and I don't want to forget a minute. Be forewarned that it's lengthy!
Leading up to his birth, I had been so anxious for things to get started. Hoping every twinge I felt was the start of contractions or that a new symptom I was experiencing might mean labor was right around the corner. At my 38 week appointment I was already dilated 3 cm and was 70% effaced. This felt huge to me! I was already 1/3 of the way there and things hadn't even started! And certainly that meant things would be starting soon. So I let my doctor do a membrane sweep in hopes of helping things along and headed home. Well all the sweep did was cause some bleeding that had me concerned and back at the doctor 2 days later to check on baby boy. Everything was fine, and I wasn't having any signs of labor so they sent me home telling me not to worry. Ha! The bleeding continued on and off over the weekend and really picked back up the following Wednesday- a whole week after I'd had the sweep done. This made me think something else was causing the bleeding, again causing me to be a bit panicky. I had my 39 week appointment that afternoon and my doctor assured me he saw no signs of anything being wrong and it was most likely just my body getting ready for labor.
The next morning I woke up around 4:30 to get up to go to the bathroom and when I sat up in bed I felt a gush. It was dark so I couldn't see exactly what it was but upon further inspection I determined I thought it might be my water breaking. There was still some bleeding but it definitely seemed more like water. Luckily my mom had suggested I sleep with a towel under me this last week- thank goodness because that at least helped with some of the mess. I woke hubby and told him I thought my water had broken and we may need to go to the hospital. I originally had planned to labor at home as long as possible before going to the hospital but since I wasn't having contractions and I wasn't even entirely sure if it was my water or not, and there was still the bleeding to consider I decided to call my doctor and get his opinion. He encouraged me to come on in to to labor and delivery and get checked out. So we go up, threw in some laundry, ate a quick breakfast, packed the car and headed to the hospital. The timing actually worked out perfectly because we didn't have the added stress of hubby already being at work.
We arrived at the hospital around 6:15am and they brought me back to triage. Hubby wasn't able to be with me for this part which I didn't love but the staff was great! They did an exam, asked me a million questions and put me on some monitors to check on baby and observe any contractions I might have been having (at this point I still wasn't aware of any). Baby boy's heart rate was good but my contractions hadn't really started- just a few intermittent ones that weren't even strong enough for me to distinguish from braxton hicks. I was about 4cm dilated, and the nurse practitioner who checked me said it was possible my water had broken because she couldn't detect the bag during the exam but she wasn't positive. However, she felt like the bleeding I was still having made her too uncomfortable to send me home to see if contractions got started on their own. So she conferred with my doctor and they agreed it was probably time to admit me and get things started.
I had a very specific birth plan in mind and multiple printed copies in my bag and one of the first things listed was I did NOT want to be induced or have my labor augmented. But when the NP shared her and my doctor's thoughts with me I didn't even hesitate to agree. I just knew today was the day. Plus I was a bit nervous that everything was ok and I just wanted to get him here. Hubby was brought back to me and we headed to get settled into our room in the labor area. I knew they were hoping to start me on a low dose of pitocin, and knew that meant I wouldn't be eating for a while so I decided to have a snack before things got started. My nurses were great and gave me time to eat while we waited for my doctor to come chat with us. They also got me hooked up to the fetal monitors and my IV for some fluids. My doctor arrived and talked through the plan- start on the lowest dose of pitocin to see if we can kickstart my body into labor and go ahead and break my waters (or confirm they're already broken). I was very nervous about the pitocin but my doctor assured me that if my body started contracting on its own we could turn it off. So we agreed to the plan and he went ahead with breaking my waters. We determined my waters had partially broken but he was able to fully rupture them for me. And then around 8:30ish the pitocin was turned on.
About 10 minutes later contractions started and as I expected with the pitocin, they came on fast and furious. Everything you read and prepare for tells you that contractions will build, starting out lasting about 30 seconds, increasing in length, and strength but these started out lasting at least a minute, and very intense with not much time in between. They were also all in my back, I didn't feel a thing in my abdomen. I labored through these for about 2 hours and then truly doubted that I could continue for what I was sure was hours more. My husband was great throughout! He put counter pressure on my back during each contraction, let me know when the peak was over, and told me repeatedly what a good job I was doing. When I started to doubt myself, I was getting no break between contractions and they were lasting 1.5-2 minutes a piece-he encouraged me telling me that probably meant I was getting close to the pushing stage. I told him there was no way, it had only been a short time and that this was just what pitocin contractions are like. (In hindsight I maybe should have listened to him!).
At this point I decided I wanted an epidural. This was not my original plan. I had hoped to have an unmedicated birth but I just felt so overwhelmed by the intensity so I asked my husband and nurse to please get me an epidural. Everyone asked me multiple times to be sure I was sure, which I appreciated and I was sure. I hadn't really used a lot of the tools I had intended to like the shower or my hypnobirthing tracks and looking back I'm not sure why- labor makes your brain a bit scrambled! The anesthesiology team arrived super quick and was phenomenal. I had some fear about the epidural due to my pretty substantial scoliosis but it was super smooth and worked effectively with no issues. At this point it's about 10:45am. My nurse came back around 11 and did a cervical check and I think my jaw hit the floor when she told me I was 10cm. I looked at her and said "I am not!" and she assured me I was. So it seems my husband may have been right and I was almost to the pushing stage. Initially this disappointed me, I had been so close and maybe I could have just kept going a bit longer. I had considered asking her to check me before I got the epidural but decided that it was irrelevant once I had decided it was what I wanted. But looking back now and seeing how things continued to progress I am happy with the choice I made.
When she told me I was 10cm she also let me know that baby boy was still sitting way up high in my pelvis, at zero station. Because I had the epidural and was comfortable they were able to allow me to "labor down", basically letting my body labor on its own while I was comfortable to see if he'll move down before beginning to push. So they set me up with a peanut ball and I laid on one side that way for an hour and then on the other side for another hour. This also gave me a little time to rest which was good, because I was going to need it. Unfortunately when they returned he really hadn't moved down much so the nurse let me try some practice pushes just to see what would happen. I pushed for about an hour, with little progress so again they had me rest, in a different position to see if we could get baby boy into a better position to move. Because I'd been having back labor my nurse thought perhaps he wasn't sitting in the best position. An hour went by and we got back to pushing. After about an hour of pushing, my doctor came in to check on me. I was finally making some progress at this point so he said we were good to keep going. And so we did, for another hour and a half. Which if you're keeping count puts me around 3.5 hours total of pushing. My contractions had really slowed and weakened at this point so they turned the pitocin back on to see if they could give them a boost.
My doctor was in and out during this time, keeping an eye on my progress. Around 6 he came in and stuck around for several pushes. I could tell on his face he was beginning to worry about how long I'd been pushing, and the amount of progress I still needed to make to get baby boy out. My doctor knew that I wanted limited intervention. And he knew that so far my plans had not gone at all like I had hoped. And I cannot thank him enough for how gently he approached this next part with us. He talked through some of what he was seeing, what it could mean, asked how I was feeling (in regards to having the strength to keep pushing) and said he wanted us to begin considering whether an instrumental delivery might be a good option for us. This immediately terrified me but I also knew he was right- I was exhausted even though I didn't want to admit it. And I wasn't sure I could get him here on my own. So when my doctor suggested using the vacuum I looked to my husband who reassured me and we agreed.
They got everything set up for the delivery and let me rest for a couple contractions while they got organized. The NICU team was brought in- standard procedure with an instrumental delivery- but as soon as they arrived I could feel myself tear up. My husband held my hand and assured me everything would be fine. Then it was time to push again. It still took 4 more contractions, even with the assistance of the vacuum but at 6:44pm James Boyd McIntyre FINALLY arrived.
He was placed on my chest while they gave a him a quick once over- no NICU assistance needed. The amount of relief, joy and love I felt at that moment is indescribable. As we were all admiring him, we agreed his size may have contributed to his stubborn exit. He was definitely a chunky little guy- we hadn't weighed him yet but nomone in the room thought he was under 8lbs. When he was finally weighed, he clocked in at 8lbs 10 oz. And 19 inches long. Whew! But he was pure perfection with the chubbiest cheeks and a head full of hair!