It has been 14 days since we brought our beautiful boy into the world and I am finally ready to share the story of his birth. As much as I wanted write about this miraculous adventure right away so I didn’t forget one single detail, it has taken me a full two weeks to come to terms with the entire experience. I will never again be the same. Not after this. The most intense pain, the strongest desire, the deepest love- all fused together- impossible to have one without the other. It was traumatizing, life altering, and will forever be the most significant accomplishment of my lifetime.
I will start the story from the beginning. It was Monday, November 14th- the day of my induction. I hadn’t slept for weeks in anticipation of this day, although for some unknown reason, the night before I immediately fell into a deep sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. It was like my body knew what was to come and that I would need every ounce of strength.
Monday was a very relaxing day. Ian and I slept in until 10:00, then spent the afternoon finishing up errands and enjoying our last few hours together as a family of two, eating chips and cheese dip at the Mexican restaurant up the road. Mom arrived in the early evening, and my brother and his girlfriend were not too far behind. We laughed about my big belly, took a lot of pictures, packed the car up, and went to dinner at Taco Mac. We referred to this as “The Last Supper.”
My eyes are about to pop out of my head… Pure terror! 🙂
Cason was pretty grossed out by my “outtie” belly button. haha!
Getting in the car… last time at home without a baby!
Cason and Katie followed us in another car. When we got to the restaurant, he informed us that Ian drove the entire time with no lights on and that he ran multiple red lights. Neither of us even noticed. Talk about being distracted! What if I had been in active labor!?
As we pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, we received a phone call from Ian’s parents and they told us they were on their way. We were completely surprised as we thought they wouldn’t be able to meet their Grandson until the following weekend. This really set the tone for a wonderful, once in a lifetime experience surrounded by love of our families. I was scheduled to arrive at the hospital at 8:00 pm, however, we finished dinner a little early, so decided we would head straight to the hospital. We arrived about an hour early, so we had to wait for a birthing suite to become available. My nerves were in full effect at this point. The waiting almost killed me.
Finally, I was called to the desk to finish signing papers. EVEN THOUGH I HAD PRE-REGISTERED, THIS TOOK A GOOD 30 MINUTES!! Again, I don’t know what I would have done if I had been in active labor! After my last signature, we went upstairs and they showed us to our birthing suite- Room #28. The nurse instructed me to put on my hospital gown. This turned into be an escapade all in itself. Those gowns have holes in places they shouldn’t have and I ended up with body parts sticking out from each one. I had to yell for my mom to come and help me- both of us erupting in laughter. Comic relief was very much appreciated.
It was then time for the nurses to start my IV and for the Cervidil to be inserted behind my cervix. My midwife told me a few weeks prior that this would be painful, so I was afraid. It turned out that it wasn’t any different than all of the other internal exams, so my fears were unwarranted. The nurse explained the process and broke the horrible news that often times being induced takes 2 or 3 days. She told me not to be discouraged if the Cervidil didn’t do what it was supposed to do during the first twelve hours, we might have to repeat the process. I was told I couldn’t eat anything for two hours after they placed the Cervidil, then I would have one hour to eat something light, then I wouldn’t be able to eat anything again until after the baby was born. Cason went out and bought chocolate glazed doughnuts for me. Then it was time to play the waiting game. Ian’s parents arrived around midnight and we all hung out and laughed and talked until about 1:00am. Everyone decided to spend the night at the hotel across the street from the hospital in case they needed to get back to the hospital quickly. Ian and I tried to get sleep- but in the middle of the night I was having pretty intense contractions (which was a great sign that the Cervidil was working) and got a pain pill. Besides the nurses waking me up every hour to adjust my monitors so they could hear the baby’s heartbeat, I slept until morning.
At 9:00am, the nurse came back in and removed the Cervidil. I was able to take a shower, fix my hair, and even put on some makeup. It was nice to have a little bit of time to center myself and relax. At about noon, the nurse came back to start the Pitocin, which theoretically should start my contractions- however, she shared more bad news. Often times, Pitocin causes “Pitocin contractions” which feel the same as real contractions, but they do not dilate your cervix- therefore causing a lot of pain for no reason. If this happens, they will run the entire bag of Pit through the IV, then start another 12 hour round of Cervidil before repeating another bag of Pit. (This was the most discouraging, terrifying news… I prayed and prayed that labor would progress.)
(With my favorite nurse, Trish)
I started having contractions within about 20 minutes of the Pitocin running through my IV. By 1:00pm, the contractions were showing up on the monitors pretty regularly. Ian’s dad took the role of contraction monitor- letting me know when they were coming, when they were going, and how intense each one was.
People say a picture is worth a thousand words… The following pictures describe how the contractions intensified-
At this point, I wanted to turn back, change my mind- I wasn’t ready to have a baby. It was all happening too fast! Never mind that I had the last 10 months to get prepared for this. I knew that I couldn’t get my epidural until I was 4 centimeters dilated, and I knew the chances were that my contractions were just “Pitocin Contractions.” The nurse came in and my mom asked if she could check my progress. I started to object- knowing full well that if I hadn’t made progress I wouldn’t be able to continue (as if I had a choice). Mom and Ian reassured me that these contractions were the real thing and the nurse needed to check me. I prayed harder than I ever have that I was getting close to 4 centimeters. I couldn’t endure much more. Finally I agreed and the nurse confirmed that I was a “Good 5 centimeters”!!! I cried tears of joy! The anesthesiologist came in to give me my epidural. My mom stayed with me for this and coached me through it. I will never forget the painful, electric shocks down my left leg as he was trying to find the epidural space in my back. Fortunately, it didn’t take very long to start working and soon, everyone was back in the room with us. I was completely pain free and was able to laugh and enjoy hours with our wonderful, supportive families. We even played trivia just an hour or two before it was time to push!
Finally it was about 9:15 pm and my contractions were becoming very intense and the urge to push was undeniable. Ian’s sister and brother-in-law arrived just in time. It was like the baby was waiting for his Aunt Jenn and Uncle Jonathan to get there before he made his grand entrance to the world.
The midwife checked me again and it was time!! I was 10 centimeters dilated! She decided that it was time to break my water with an instrument that eerily resembled a crochet hook :(. It only took a few moments for the contractions to intensify dramatically after this procedure and I got my first taste of what the billions of women before me spoke about as if it were a right of passage. She told me to “labor down” for a while- which means even though your body is telling you to push, you refrain and just let the contractions do it for you. Ummm… YEAH RIGHT! My body was pushing and there wasn’t a damn thing I (or anyone else for that matter) could do about it. I pushed harder than I ever thought possible… Ian said I turned blue, I couldn’t catch my breath, I broke the blood vessels around my eyes, and my eyes popped out of my head like a frog and stayed that way for 3 days.
By this point, my epidural had completely stopped working and I could feel every last thing. The contractions kept coming harder, faster, stronger… they were on top of each other. There were no breaks to catch my breath or regroup. I started to plead, “I need a break, I need a break!” I felt my strength and control begin to falter. How much longer would I have to endure this unbearable pain? What if I had hours and hours left to go without a minute’s rest?
I had Ian’s hand in one hand, my mom’s in the other, squeezing as hard as I could, looking deep into each of their eyes for encouraging words. My dad was on call, stuck at the hospital in South Carolina, and my brother put him on speaker phone, so he was able to be with us through it all. My mom would pick up the phone and give him updates as often as possible. (I am 110% convinced that I would not have been able to make it through this without either of them. They were the best “birthing coaches” I could ever have asked for.)
The pain from Grae’s head pushing forward was excruciating. After the epidural wore off, I could feel every time his head pushed forward and every time it slid back with every contraction. The midwife discovered that the baby was coming out sideways and his head was stuck under my pubic bone. His heart rate was decreasing. I watched as my mom’s eyes darted from monitor to monitor, then to the midwife- silently (frantically) wondering if they would need to do an emergency C-section. The tension in that room at that moment…
Finally, Georgia (the midwife), declared that she could see his head and I could put my hand down there and touch him. It was the most incredible feeling and it provided me with the last boost of energy that I needed to push him out. Georgia instructed Mom and Ian to each grab my legs. After an hour of true labor and pushing, Georgia grew concerned about the amount of time passing and the short periods when Grae’s heartbeat slowed. Apparently, from her perspective, it was growing increasingly obvious that my son was going to be too large to complete his trip without her intervention. She asked if I was willing to have an episiotomy in hopes that it would help. After a brief, frantic discussion of the pros and cons of this procedure, I determined (ok maybe I wasn’t being objective) that I would in fact hate it if she “epised” me. The next strong contraction set in and suddenly, without warning, she decided that, in spite of my frantic wishes, I would in fact have opted to be given some assistance from her surgical grade scissors if I were in a position to be reasonable. I was suddenly hit with a huge contraction, and the overwhelming pain came to a peak and then I felt a huge release of pressure- I knew his head was out. Milliseconds later, another huge contraction hit, intense pressure built up, and I pushed my son from my body.
There was so much electricity, so much energy in that moment- the final moment before mother and child are made as two separate human beings…
His first moment of life. 10:29 pm, November 15, 2011.
He was fairly quiet at first, as his umbillical cord had been wrapped around his neck twice. The nurses placed my baby boy on my belly and Ian was allowed to cut the cord. They tried to have him nurse for a minute, then brought him to the incubator because he wasn’t breathing quite right. Ian followed as they placed Grae on the table and worked to remove the fluid that was causing him to “sing” instead of cry. Ian spoke to him while the doctors quickly but calmly helped him to breathe. Once they had completed their work, the doctors handed Grae to Ian.
“Knowing that Andrea had just been through the most intense (for lack of a better word) and traumatic experience of her life, I started to tell her how incredibly good looking our son was. (Noticing that Andrea was naturally struggling to collect herself) I proudly told the entire room that Grae was beautiful like his daddy (This comment in a room full of women hit the target as many of them took a second to recognize the conceded male in the room). Humor was my only weapon against the tears and fear for Andrea’s safety that would have consumed me. I knew that she needed to hear every positive word I could offer.” ~ Ian
Both the baby and I had very high temperatures and I was shaking uncontrollably from the epidural. Georgia delivered the placenta and a surgeon was asked to come stitch me up. The surgeon, Dr. Chang, categorized the resulting collateral damage to my baby portal as a fourth degree tear- which, by the way- it the worst you can get. As the doctor delicately put Humpty Dumpty back together again, it seemed as if I could feel her every move. Due to the fact that I was cringing at her every move, I’m pretty sure that my epidural button was mashed like one of those pop up gopher games at the local arcade. During all of this, I could not help but be curious about all of the things that must pass through the portal after the baby. I got the chance to actually see and touch my placenta (I know, I know, I’m a science teacher to the bitter end).
As you can see, Grae was born with a birthday hat of his own in the form of a large caput on the back of his head. A caput is the swelling of the soft tissues in the head of a newborn caused by the pressure being exerted on his head by the contractions of the cervix. Unfortunately, if he came straight down the birth canal, the entire delivery would have been a million times easier for both of us… but we got through it together. The caput disappeared in about 4 hours after birth but left a big bruise that we are still trying to get rid of. This was also the cause of his jaundice and we had to go get his blood drawn for about 8 days after he was born to check his bili levels.
The three of us together… consumed by love and redefining who we are… a family… PARENTS… a son of our very own. Perfect in every way. There are few moments in my life that will forever be seared into my mind in exact detail. The instant my son was laid on my belly for the first time will always be at the top of that list.
I’ve spent the last few hours writing this, tears streaming down my face… Motherhood truly is a gift unlike any other.
Here are a few more pictures from the day I will never, ever forget. Happy Birthday, Graeson!
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