A Birth Story
My husband and I were married two years after the day we met.
Less than a month later, I found out I was pregnant. It was exciting but surprising. The doctor set my due date was June 12, 2011, the day after my 29th birthday.
Since the beginning I’ve thought the due date was a week late because my doc was using science to figure out when we conceived, and I was, you know, there. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when baby boy showed up a week early. I had an uneventful pregnancy, no morning sickness, no gestational diabetes, I gained the average amount of weight and only had a little bit of light headedness and minor sciatic pain towards the end.
Once our weekly appointments started I was told each time that there was no dilation although the baby had turned head down. My doctor kept assuring me that it didn’t mean anything, but it was still a bit of a letdown because it seemed as if baby boy was quite content. At our 38 week appointment on Wednesday, June 1st, the doctor once again told us there was no dilation. I was certain I’d end up going past my due date and would have to be induced. I was dreading having to be pregnant for two more weeks because I was so hot and uncomfortable. In the middle of the night and throughout the day on Thursday I felt what felt like menstrual cramps, but since it was only a couple of times so I assumed it was just more “pregnancy pains” like ligaments stretching.
Friday was my last day at work as I’d planned to take a week off before my due date so I wouldn’t go straight from the office to the hospital. That morning, my husband started feeling back pains and called me to say he’d gone to the Emergency Room with severe back pain, convinced he must have kidney stones. He was diagnosed with severe back spasms and was put on pain meds and a muscle relaxer. Since I was feeling pretty terrible too, our neice stayed with us that night. I continued to have the crampy feelings and even started to time them, but they were 5, 7, 12, 9 minutes apart and weren’t getting stronger so they seemed like Braxton Hicks.
Saturday morning my mom offered to drive down from Indianapolis to stay with us. I took her up on it – not because I thought I was in labor but since my husband was feeling so terrible I wanted another “adult” around to help me decide if this was the real deal or if I was overreacting.
By the time she got to our house my “pains” were more consistent but still weren’t getting stronger. Around 3:00pm I lost my mucus plug (seriously gross and perfectly named), so I figured at least something was happening but since it doesn’t really mean labor is starting I still thought we may be a few days away. Labor, by the way, is ridiculous. There are so many things that can happen and mean nothing, or absolutely nothing can be happening and then all of a sudden you’re in labor.
Around 4:00 my mom insisted that we watch Mamma Mia (I figured at the very least Pierce Brosnan’s singing might send me into “real” labor). The “pains” (I still wasn’t calling them contractions) were about 5 minutes apart and were starting to hurt more, so I would count to thirty to get thru them. I decided to take a shower just in case I had to go to the hospital (in hindsight I’m so glad I did). Afterward I timed 5 or 6 of them just to make sure – I was still having trouble thinking this was the real thing – but ultimately decided to go to the hospital because I was so uncomfortable. I thought for sure they’d send me home but I needed some idea of how to relieve the pain so I figured we might as well go.
Our last pic before heading to the hospital.
We arrived at the hospital around 7:30pm Saturday night and it took FOREVER to get registered because they had my old address (which they continued to get wrong on nearly every piece of paperwork). Eventually I was taken to triage and was told I was dilated to 4cm and that they were going to “keep me” and call the doctor. Luckily my actual doctor was on call the entire weekend. I was moved into a labor and delivery room around 9:30pm and by then was dilated to 5cm.
It was pretty quiet at the hospital and my nurse was so sweet. When I asked for an epidural around 10:30 the anesthesiologist arrived less than half an hour later. I’m the biggest wimp ever, never had blood drawn or had been in the hospital until my pregnancy so I was nervous about absolutely everything. But it felt like a bee sting when he numbed the area and then pressure as the he administered the larger epidural needle. I felt the effect nearly immediately and it was amazing (seriously, I was thrilled).
It was nice to finally be able to relax. I think that it went more into my left side than my right because my left leg was completely numb while my right leg just felt like it was asleep. The best way I could describe it was like getting out of a hot tub. My husband, on the other hand, was suffering still and had to sleep on reclining chair. My mom went to take a nap in the car because the only other chair was a rolling desk chair, I’m convinced I was the only one who was comfortable.
I progressed to 6cm by 11:30 and 7cm by 12:45. Then things kind of stalled. Two hours later I was still at 7cm so they started Pitocen but an hour later there was still no change. I started to get worried because things had moved along so quickly till that point. However by 6:30am I was completely dilated and ready to push.
Pushing was interesting because with the epidural I could feel the pressure of the contractions but since I was numb I wasn’t totally sure if I was pushing right. I ended up getting a new nurse because mine was getting off her shift at 7 but my new nurse was FABULOUS. She had mineral oil and did a ton of massage to help minimize any tearing (sorry TMI – but I was sooo greatful). She also helped by giving me very good directions on how to push and repositioning me so that the baby’s head could move under my pelvis bone. Once the baby started to crown she was like “Hold on, don’t push, I’m going to get the doctor”. So I had to wait even though I can feel the baby’s head, luckily he was close by and only took a minute or so to get there. After a few more pushes Baby Boy was born at 7:54am. He was 7lbs 12oz. It was nine months to the day after our wedding.
They cleaned him off and suctioned his lungs before handing him off to me. He was breathing quickly and they told me to hold him close to me because he was having trouble “transitioning”. He eventually calmed down and my husband got to hold him as did both of our mothers. At that point they moved us to a hospital room and started to check both of us over. There were a ton of family members waiting outside but we told them to hold off for a few minutes while we got settled. The hospital I delivered at keeps the baby and mothers in the same room so they can bond, and start to get used to caring for the baby.
The nurse checking Baby Boy called for a piece of equipment and hooked him up to it. Meanwhile the other nurse was going over all this paperwork with me, which was really annoying because it could have waited and I was exhausted. The first nurse said “I’m taking him to the nursery, I need to monitor his oxygen” and wisked the baby out of the room. At that point I was panicked and asked the nurse with me to get thru the important stuff but I didn’t really want to hear about food options and whether or not I wanted to get optional vaccines. My husband and family went to the nursery and I was stuck by myself because I had an IV and a catheter and the epidural had yet to wear off.
Eventually Baby Boy was moved from the nursery to the NICU because his oxygen was still low. As soon as my epidural had mostly worn off I asked to have everything removed so that I could go see him. I’d only been able to hold him for about 15 minutes in the delivery room.
They had him on oxygen and an IV and said that he had fluid in his lungs. Every time he cried his breathing would spike and his oxygen would decrease. I was scared to touch him because I didn’t want to upset him. Once we were able to talk to a doctor she said that he had probably swallowed too soon and that they’d continue monitoring him and usually the fluid would eventually be absorbed but they’d taken cultures to check for infection – but it took two days for those to grow so we wouldn’t have the results till Tuesday morning.
On Monday the NICU doctor said they’d done and x-ray and a CRP (test for infection) which had a result of a 7 (less than 5 is normal). But that evening they were able to remove the extra oxygen and we gave him a bottle. Because of his breathing he wasn’t able to breastfeed, so I had to learn to use a pump way before I expected to.
We visited him every chance we got but I was exhausted and still in pain so I had to take breaks every few hours, especially since the chairs in the NICU were not at all comfortable (I’d apparently bruised my tailbone during delivery). My husband spent Monday night at home because sleeping on a hospital room couch wasn’t helping his back and I wanted him to be able to get some sleep. I spent the night alone but I was able to finally get a little bit of rest, since nurses weren’t constantly coming in to check on me.
Tuesday morning brought another X-ray and CRP. We were hoping to hear that he didn’t have any infection because there was a better chance of him coming home the next day. This time the doctor said Baby Boy’s CRP test was 30 (again, LESS than 5 is normal), and coupled with cloudiness that was showing up in his lungs, the doctor suspected pneumonia, which meant 7 days of antibiotics. So much for coming home on Wednesday.
I was really disappointed because I was being discharged that day so we’d have to drive to the hospital every time we wanted to see him. They let him start to feed him on demand (since his oxygen had stabilized) so we were able to feed him a few times. Again we made as many trips to the NICU as I was physically feeling up to – and my nurses encouraged us to stay as late as we wanted since insurance paid for the entire day.
When my husband ran out for lunch I went up to visit him and on my way back saw some of the other new mom’s in our hallway. It broke my heart to see them with their babies and lots of visitors and excitement and our sweet baby was stuck in the NICU hooked up to a bunch of monitors. It wasn’t fair, he deserved to be celebrated and surrounded by our families, being held and loved, not to be all alone in a nursery. I told my husband it didn’t feel like we had a baby because we weren’t able to care for him and hold him whenever we wanted.
Having a baby in the NICU is like being part of a very depressing club, everyone is exhausted and they compare notes on their baby’s treatments. Even though I was sad and frustrated, I couldn’t help but look around and realize that we were the lucky ones. There are babies that are 2lbs and ones that are totally encased in plastic, and ones who will be there for months. Getting on the elevator we saw a woman with her husband, she was still in a hospital gown with her IV attached and a little bottle of pumped breastmilk in her hand. As soon as we saw them we knew they were headed to the NICU and were in the same position we were two days ago.
When I’d first found out I was pregnant I was given a choice between two hospitals. I chose the one I delivered at (Norton Suburban) because it had a Level III NICU, while the other hospital would have to send the baby to another hospital for care. I’m so glad I made that decision because while I was a low risk pregnancy I figured it would be good to have a NICU in the same hospital “just in case”. Our nurses were amazing and took lots of time to answer our questions and explain what tests they were doing and possible outcomes.
Wednesday we made our first trip to the hospital since I’d been home. Baby Boy’s CRP test was 5.1 – nearly normal again – which meant the infection was going away. Since this test was normal that meant they could do his circumcision on Thursday and then he could come home on Friday.
Thursday he was able to breastfeed for the first time as well and caught on with no trouble despite having been given formula from a bottle and also a pacifier. They put in a PICC line so we’d be able to administer his antibiotics at home. A PICC line is a thin IV that went all the way up his arm and into a major artery – it lasts longer and can’t be as easily pulled out as a regular IV.
On Friday afternoon once the home health nurse came and set up his IV (which was a little pump in a small bag) – we were able to finally bring him home. Friday night another nurse came and showed us how to administer his antibiotics. It was very nerve-wracking because we had to prep a line and make sure everything was disinfected otherwise he would bleed into the IV. It felt odd to have him home because we weren’t used to his schedule and this was the first time we’d been totally responsible for his care. Friday night he started breathing quickly after nursing and we both just sat there and stared at him and then each other since we’d gotten used to the monitors to reassure us that everything was okay.
Saturday was my birthday and my parents brought our dogs back down (who’d been staying with them while we were in the hospital) and they got to meet their new little brother. It was the best birthday present ever to have everyone home at last.
His PICC line was removed on Monday morning. A week and a day after his birth, he’s a totally normal healthy little baby and continues to amaze us more each day.