I’ve been meaning to write this post for several weeks now, and the only excuses I have for not writing it yet, well, they’re actually pretty good ones.
I spent a lot of time writing out a detailed birth story. I’m glad I did it, because these memories get so fuzzy so quickly. But when I was finished, it was almost 3,000 words, and it felt too personal even for me to share. Maybe it’s because I’ve been away from the blog for so long, but suddenly I got cold feet about putting all of those details out there. Instead, I saved the document on my hard drive, and I’ll go ahead and share some highlights with you here.
Noah was born September 17. I was 39 weeks pregnant, and I’d scheduled an elective induction for Wednesday morning because my mom (who had been staying with us for a week and a half at that point to take care of Judah while I was in the hospital) was going home in a few days.
The last week of my pregnancy was difficult and wonderful. I was miserable (36 weeks pregnant and HUGE on the right), and I was so progressed that I was on high alert for labor any minute. But the time I got to spend with my mom was invaluable. She was a huge help with Judah (despite the fact that she was on a knee scooter because she’d broken her foot two weeks before she came, but that’s another story). We even got to go to a day spa for manicures, pedicures, and haircuts. I wouldn’t say it was relaxing, but it was about as relaxing as it gets at 38 weeks pregnant.
I was disappointed to schedule the induction, but my Bishop’s score was as high as it gets. It was pretty insane that I wasn’t in labor yet, and my midwife believed that all it would take was breaking my water or a very low dose of Pitocin to get things going because I was so favorable for induction. I didn’t want to send my mom home without meeting the baby or try to find alternative childcare for Judah, so we went ahead and scheduled it.
At my 39-week appointment, the midwife also stripped my membranes, and she said it was likely I wouldn’t make it to my induction after that. She was right. Mild contractions began around 7 p.m., active labor started around 2 a.m., and he was born a little before 7 a.m. No labor augmentation was necessary.
He was 9 pounds, 11 ounces (!!!), and I had a 100% unmedicated birth. Perhaps I’ll share more details about my thoughts on the unmedicated birth experience later, but for now, I will say my feelings are mixed. I’m glad I did it. I feel like I accomplished a goal that I’d set out to accomplish, and I’m proud that I made it. But it was miserable.
I do not have glowy things to say about the beauty of natural birth. It was exhausting, unbearably painful, and it actually made it more difficult for me to bond with Noah in the minutes immediately after he was born. I didn’t experience the immediate joy and bliss I felt when I looked at Judah for the first time — I was too dazed and tired. My experience with a low dose epidural was much better. It was enough to take the edge off the pain and keep me relaxed, but not strong enough to keep me from feeling contractions to push or cause any complications after birth. I honestly think I would have had a quicker labor with an epidural, because at the end I was fighting labor so hard because tensing up was the only way I could tolerate the contractions.
I pushed him out in two big pushes — fewer than 5 minutes. So while I absolutely will never judge a woman for choosing an epidural (in fact, I recommend it after experiencing it both ways), I will say don’t ever let your doctor schedule you for an unwanted C-section or early induction just because your baby is “too big.” I pushed out an almost 10 pound baby, and only experienced a very superficial tear that required 2 tiny stitches. You can’t know whether your body can do it until you try, and you will likely be surprised by what your body is capable of.
I held him for about 30 minutes after he was born. We had really struggled with names throughout my pregnancy, and in the last couple months we’d finally tentatively settled on a name we both liked. When they handed him to me, I looked at his face for the first time, and that name just didn’t fit. I’d always say I wanted to wait to meet the baby before I made his name official, but I never actually thought I would change my mind based on the way a minutes-old baby looked. That’s exactly what happened, though. The name we’d chosen was thrown out the window when I looked at him and realized that Noah just fit.
He had just begun to nurse when the neonatal nurses came back to assess him a second time. They noticed that he was showing signs of respiratory distress, and despite the fact that I was in a baby friendly hospital with a strict rooming in policy, he was taken to the “special care” nursery for observation. There was no NICU in the hospital where he was born, and thankfully, his doctor and the nurses did everything they could to avoid transferring him. I was officially discharged 48 hours later, but they let me stay in my room free of charge so I could stay with him until he was discharged two days after that.
Apparently, when babies are pushed through the birth canal — typically anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours — it helps to squeeze out the fluid that’s been in their lungs for months. Noah came out too quickly to get a proper squeeze, and he developed a complication common in babies born via C-section: transient tachypnea of the newborn. Essentially, he retained fluid in his lungs that made it difficult for him to breathe. The only cure is time. The body has to work the fluid out on its own. He was on oxygen and monitors in the nursery for two days before his body was able to work the fluid out so he could breathe easily.
For the first day, we had no idea how serious it was. My husband went down to the nursery with him, and I was left alone in my recovery room for two hours with terrible after birth pain and few updates on my baby. It was pretty awful. When I finally got to the nursery, I couldn’t hold him or nurse him. He was alone in an incubator, and I felt totally helpless.
That night, he was doing well enough that I was finally allowed to nurse him. I spent most of the night in an uncomfortable rocking chair in the nursery holding him as much as I could and feeding him, and we finally had the chance to bond. The next day, he took an unexplained turn for the worse and I was restricted from holding him and nursing him again. At that point, I was a total basket case. I felt like we took three steps back, and I was terrified that he was going to keep getting worse and end up transferred to the NICU. My hormones were also a train wreck. I was starting to feel the extreme roller coaster post partum hormonal dip, but I didn’t have those breastfeeding endorphins kicking in to help regulate my emotions. My time in the hospital in the two days after he was born pretty much revolved around pumping and crying.
On the third day, they finally let me hold him for kangaroo care, and it seemed to make a huge difference. By that evening, I was able to start nursing him again, and the next day he was finally transferred to my room. He was discharged Saturday. (On the right: Finally feeling more peaceful after they let me hold him again.)
I’ll write more later about our transition to a family of four (spoiler alert: Judah is a fantastic big brother). For now, I will say I am so, so grateful to have my baby home with me and healthy. I wouldn’t recommend my experience to anyone, but when I think about what parents whose babies have serious complications endure, I am heartbroken for them. Those four days were unbearable for me; I cannot imagine doing it for four WEEKS or more in a chair in a cramped NICU.
Ronald McDonald House has been on the list of charities to which I give as much as I can ever since my nephew was born at 32 weeks gestation. This experience has cemented my commitment to the organization. I thankfully had a bed available to me right down the hall from my baby, but I cannot imagine if he’d been transported to a NICU far from home. Even being a few hundred feet away from a newborn feels too far.
I’m so thankful for my two boys, and as difficult as these weeks have been, I’m so excited for the adventures to come.