Warning: This is a long post! I’ve included all the details, from the couple days leading up to his birth. This is for my own memory, but also for the mamas searching for stories, anxiously awaiting their baby’s birth day. I know I soaked up birth stories before I went through this the first time. However, if you’d like just the timeline, click here.
I had a very active pregnancy right up to the last couple of days. Last run was a week prior. Last swim 3 days prior. Last climb 24 hours prior (see below). I stood all afternoon at a baby shower 8 hours before contractions started. I certainly wasn’t doing myself any favors if I wanted to keep this pregnancy going for another 12 days! I really wanted the baby to be born after March 9 so I could have a longer maternity leave.
February 15: 36 week prenatal visit – Cervix dilated 1cm, not effaced, but cervix was soft
February 22, Thursday: I sent a message to my doula, Vanessa, to tell her I passed my mucous plug and baby had dropped (I no longer could fasten my pregnancy support belt when I could the day before)
February 23 and 24 (Friday and Saturday nights): I had fluid leaking after I had returned to bed after a nighttime pee break.
February 25, Sunday: I had some early morning cramps and decided I should not do my morning swim. I called my midwife, Debbie, and she advised me to go to the hospital to have the fluid checked (couldn’t go to the clinic because it was Sunday). I was very worried that it was amniotic fluid… I did not want to be kept at the hospital and labor induced if I didn’t start contractions.
A Reluctant Visit to the OB Emergency Department
We dropped Aidan off at my parents’ house and checked in to “OB Emergency” at the hospital. I declined a vaginal exam by the nurse, so she just checked my vitals and set me up on the continuous fetal monitor. After mentioning that my BP was high, she went over what may happen – the doctor would want to do a speculum exam to obtain some fluid to sample, as this was apparently the most accurate method. I did not want any vaginal exams because even that could trigger labor. (I had fully intended to keep my baby in twelve more days!)
The resident doc came in, and it was actually one who recognized me from work at MB (of course, it had to be someone I knew). She was very nice and said the swab test (Amniosure) was fine. We talked about the strip that was being recorded, which showed regular contractions 15-20 minutes apart, with normal fetal HR. The contractions weren’t painful, but I definitely felt them. We also talked about my high BP’s, and she suspected the OB hospitalist would be concerned. She ordered urine and blood tests to rule out preeclampsia. We waited a long time, then finally they were satisfied with the fetal strip and stopped that, then another 20-30 minutes they drew my blood and took the fluid sample. It took SUCH a long time, and I was getting more and more anxious to leave. I tried to chill out and relax so my BP’s weren’t so high.
The doctor finally returned, said all my tests were normal and the fluid was not amniotic fluid. She almost kept me due to my high blood pressures, but finally let me go home. She did say however, that although I wasn’t having the baby this afternoon, I should expect that it won’t wait more than a week!
My dad came to pick me up, brought me lunch, and I went back home to get ready to go to a baby shower like I had planned. My parents watched Aidan all day at their house. I tried on a couple pairs of jeans for the shower… the ones I had worn to the hospital just didn’t feel comfortable anymore. Turns out the bigger ones I wore to the shower felt quite uncomfortable around the waist too, probably due to the baby dropping further into my pelvis… I think I had somewhat suspected this since I was so uncomfortable walking and standing at the shower, but I was in complete denial! I was telling friends that I was hoping for baby to “stay in” until March 9, twelve days later, while the whole time I was doubting myself. I enjoyed my time at the party, ignoring the slight crampiness and pressure I was feeling.
A Very Emotional Last Evening with my First Born
I picked up Aidan around 5:30, giving me little time to get home to prepare dinner. Aidan had only a short nap since he was at his grandparents’ house and doesn’t nap well there. I had leftover chili to feed us, and wanted to round out the meal by baking up some corn muffins with leftover mix we had. Unfortunately this pushed dinner too late, and Aidan was a whiny wreck by the time it was ready. I truly think I had a higher level of hormones that caused extra anxiety and emotions that he picked up on, because we had the absolute worst evening ever. He was screaming and sobbing uncontrollably throughout dinner. Derek didn’t join us because he was working in the attic (insanely loudly, causing all of us some stress), but he did hear the crying way up there even with his ear protection on. I was emotional too, and broke down in tears right back at this poor toddler. I think I knew this was our last dinner as a family of three, (well, two, sadly because Derek was pushing to get our roof fixed before the baby was born), and this is how it was going to be. Mama and first-born both crying through dinner. (I do regret, about 12 hours later, eating chili as my last meal!)
I nursed Aidan before bed in the glider, one last time with my giant belly. He was tired, quiet, and actually didn’t linger like he usually wanted to. I was a little tearful when I sang him bedtime songs, because I knew it was the last time I’d put him to bed as my only child – that tomorrow his life was going to change and he didn’t know it.
I was exhausted, but antsy. Cramps were continuing, but it was mostly pressure. I went over my packing list again, throwing in a few more things. I loosely packed the suitcase that I had been collecting things in. Derek finished his work, showered, ate dinner, and got ready for bed… I did not mention that I suspected labor was starting. I knew he had had a long day and needed to get rest, so I kept it to myself until I was sure. He told me later that if I had told him earlier in the day that I was suspicious, he probably wouldn’t have spent all day in the attic! I guess I was just disappointed that this one was coming early, not when we wanted it to happen.
10:45pm – I crawled into bed and I was definitely feeling low cramps. I had typed up a message to Vanessa, but laid in bed feeling them for awhile, finally sending the message at 12:20am, I said I had low cramps with contractions, more than 10-15 minutes apart. She advised to get as much sleep as possible, and that my body won’t let me oversleep labor.
1:30am – Tonight’s the Night, Daddy!
I got up to use the bathroom when I felt enough lower pressure that I thought I had to poop. I had a little blood with my pee, and that’s when I got Derek up. I messaged Vanessa at 2:00am, saying the contractions are 5 minutes apart, in clusters, and starting in my back, and getting hard to deal with. A few minutes later, I said they were lasting a little over a minute, but very clustered, like they weren’t subsiding in between. She advised to get into hands and knees position and rock hips. They were still 3 minutes apart… I was beginning to worry that it was going to be all back labor, with frequent contractions the whole time – just like Aidan’s labor! We talked on the phone and came up with a plan.
3:30am – Vanessa arrived at our house. I was starting to get tired, so I laid in bed on my side/stomach.
3:55am – Decided to help with the pain relief by placing a TENS unit on my lower back. My contractions were both in the front of my belly but I was also feeling them in my back. The TENS unit was a great distraction. I had the controls and turned it up during a contraction and back down between them. I was laying in bed, hot during a contraction and cold afterwards so I was having the blanket taken on and off me.
4:25am – I got up from bed to use the bathroom. I tried to use the toilet as a place to rest/change position for a few contractions as I remembered it was helpful during labor with Aidan.
4:40am – I was feeling some pressure with contractions and we decided to start moving towards getting to the hospital. Derek and Vanessa started packing things up and letting my parents know they should head over. My contractions were consistently 2-3 minutes apart. I rode in the car surrounded by pillows, sitting sideways facing Derek. The ride over seemed longer and more uncomfortable than it did with Aidan’s labor. It was still dark out and we actually saw my parents heading the other direction to our house! They didn’t notice us flash the lights.
5:05am – To the Hospital
We arrived at the hospital. Vanessa parked in garage and then came to help me into a big wheelchair (that I could actually kneel sideways in!). We waited for Derek to park the car. I remember being grateful that I had remembered my work badge so we could get into the front door (which is the closest to L&D). In the kneeling position I was able to work through contractions as I was wheeled to L&D.
5:20am – I don’t know if we had just arrived at a perfect not-busy time, or if the nurse who saw me checking in just *knew* we were close, but I was brought right to my own labor room, bypassing the triage room. My initial vaginal exam revealed that I was 5.5 – 6 cm dilated! I was hooked up to the continuous fetal monitor to get a good 20 minute strip on how baby was doing. I really liked the nurse who took care of us initially… she was very calm, kept the lights dimmed, started my IV smoothly, and she was cool with updating Debbie on my phone after Derek had texted her directly. (Debbie was not specifically “on-call” that night, so the nurse had to call the on-call doctor in her group first, even though that doctor would call Debbie anyway).
5:47am – The baby’s heart rate was great, and I wanted to switch to sitting on the ball. Honestly the ball was really my happy place. I spent a lot of time rocking my hips, elbows leaning on the bed, breathing through contractions as they intensified and dissipated.
6:07am – Vanessa’s notes stated “Michelle is laboring so calmly and beautifully.” I mentioned that I was having some more pressure, so the nurse checked my dilation again and I was at 7cm. Vanessa brought up getting into the tub, I agreed, so she began filling the tub.
6:20am – Debbie arrived and wanted to check the cervix also. Her check was pretty thorough, and kinda painful. She said I was completely dilated and the bag was bulging out. I thought it was ironic that yesterday I went to the hospital because I thought the bag had ruptured, and now it was being stubborn and ultimately slowed things down! Debbie offered to rupture the bag but I was committed to letting things progress naturally. And delivering with amniotic sac still intact sounded pretty exciting! I had a blood pressure check at this time – it was 170/86, a little worrisome for my caregivers. I think it was probably just stress and excitement from my midwife’s arrival and finding out that I was already completely dilated.
6:55am – Debbie checked my cervix again, and said there was an anterior lip of cervix still in the way. She kept asking me to give some pushes, but I didn’t have any urge to push and it was actually pretty painful to try. My BP was 145/73 at this time.
7:25am – I sat back on the birthing ball, contractions were getting stronger, but I was able to stay relaxed and ride them out, knowing there would relief between them.
8:05am – Debbie checked my cervix again and reported that she thought it was more like 8-9cm. Either she didn’t get a good check earlier (since she had checked while I was on hands and knees which can be more difficult to get an accurate measurement) or the baby had moved. I felt a bit discouraged since things had been progressing quickly and smoothly so far, but now had stalled quite a bit. We talked about getting in the tub, and Vanessa calmed my concerns that it might slow things down.
8:15am – Tub Time
As I sat in the tub, I sipped gatorade between contractions and I was relaxed enough to carry on coherent conversation. I needed ice water washcloths over my head and neck during contractions, as I was warm in the tub. I ate some pretzels and drank an entire bottle of gatorade. It was kind of odd that I was nearly fully dilated and I’d work through a contraction then be almost normal between them. They also spaced out more while in the tub. In contrast to Aidan’s labor, I was actually able to sit – this time I had minimal back labor. It was nice to relax in the tub, but the nurse got antsy after an hour because she had her checks to do (BP, fetal strip or doppler). So at 9:25am I got out, dried off and back into the bed.
9:35am – Debbie checked my cervix again, and the anterior lip was still present! I was frustrated that it wasn’t dilating past that point. I laid on my side, and Debbie asked if I had any urge to push with contractions, which I denied. I worked through a few more contractions, vaguely aware that there was some issue with the house that Derek was in the hallway trying to sort out. I was slightly annoyed by this, but focused on my current job at the moment.
9:55am – Contractions were getting stronger, and Vanessa made a note that I began to moan through them. Derek was out in the hallway still, and I asked Vanessa to go bring him back in.
10:15am – I got out of bed and began to walk around the room, stopping occasionally to rock my hips, squat down, sit on the ball… trying to change positions to see if something would help move things along, finish dilating, get my water to break! Boy was it stubborn!
10:20am – We had a discussion about having Debbie break my bag of water to help things along, since it clearly was holding up the process. After Aidan’s water bag broke, things moved very quickly. Part of me was a little scared of the increased pressure and pain that accompanied the loss of the water bag cushion – that’s when the pain really ramped up during Aidan’s labor. Part of me was also apprehensive because of my desire for a labor that progressed naturally without intervention. However we talked about how I was nearly fully dilated – there was no going back now – and that it really isn’t a method of “induction” this late in the game. Also, I really wanted the baby out of me!
10:30am – Break the Water – It’s Go Time!
Back in the bed, I gathered courage and mentally prepared for the final, most painful stage of labor. Debbie broke the water and the nurse changed the pad under me after most of the fluid leaked out. I was surprised (and disappointed) that things did not get more intense immediately, and everyone was waiting around the bed to watch my next contraction. No urge to push, no stronger than the ones before. I laid on my side, closed my eyes and tried to think thoughts of the baby sliding down. After another lackluster contraction, Debbie and the nurse decided to give me some space and left the room for a break. Then, like a pot that was no longer watched, the contractions went up a notch, and I began to moan through them. The pressure began to build, and I felt some urges to push, so I began pushing a bit during the contractions. After three contractions like that, I heard Vanessa poke her head out the door to let the nurse know that things were starting to look a little bulgy down there and I had started feeling the urge to push. Debbie and the nurse returned and began preparing for birth. Things happened pretty fast at that point, although in writing this I was surprised to see that Elliott was born only 35 minutes after my water was broken!
11:05am – It took only three pushes and a baby boy was born! This time was much easier than the pushing stages with Aidan. I don’t remember him crying right away, but he was healthy. He was laid immediately on my belly, but the cord was too short to let him come up any further. I remember seeing Derek’s joyful tears as we admired our baby. I was pretty darn glad to be done with that!
Once the cord was clamped and Derek cut it, the little purple-ish naked baby was brought up to my breast, which was primed with milk courtesy of his brother. He had no issues latching and nursed for about 20-25 minutes each side. He also pooped in my hand, good job kiddo! The nurse gave me a Pitocin injection which I had preferred over the IV infusion. Debbie was at work delivering the placenta, which was being very stubborn. She pulled slight traction on it, massaged my belly/uterus (ouch!) and then asked the nurse to hook up the IV infusion of Pitocin and run it wide open (faster than on a pump).
11:55am – I could feel the cramps from the medicine, but Debbie gave me a shot of Hemabate, which is another medicine that causes cramps and helps the placenta be delivered. More massaging my uterus and pulling traction on the cord. In the meantime, Elliott was taken to the warmer where he was cleaned up, examined and measured. He was 6 pounds 14 ounces and 20 inches. He was very calm during all of this, his first milk coma. Then he was diapered and swaddled, a little hat put on his head then Daddy got some Elliott time.
12:25pm – Manual Extraction
We discussed options for dealing with this stubborn placenta. I could go to the OR under anesthesia and have the placenta removed with tools (a D&C or dilation and cutterage). Or, I could stay in the same room and Debbie could manually remove it after I got some IV pain medication. That sounded pretty gruesome, but I really didn’t want to leave the baby nor have a procedure under anesthesia. So I got a dose of fentanyl which was pretty amazing, and took away all the pain from the cramps and stinging in my vagina. Then shortly afterwards, Vanessa and the nurse lined up on either side of me and took my hands (Derek was holding Elliott on the couch). They told me to squeeze as hard as I needed to (yikes!) then Debbie went in to get the placenta. It was the most painful experience in my life. I couldn’t hold back the curse words – this was vastly different from the birth of the baby, where I was relaxed and relatively calm. Finally she pulled the placenta out which was “funny looking”, kind of bulbous and torn in a couple places. She was sure she had gotten it all but still had an OB come examine it as well. Then she cleaned me up, stitched up a little tear, and was finally done. I had to stay in the birthing room for an hour or so afterwards to monitor for bleeding since I had a manual extraction. I was warned that the Hemabate could cause diarrhea… which made me sort of regret having chili the night before! I was glad though to get the feared “first poop after childbirth” over with quickly.
Aidan Meets his Baby Brother
That afternoon, Aidan and his grandparents visited. Aidan brought Elliott a stuffed duck and we gave Aidan a VW “lovebus” toy that he adores. Aidan was curious but shy and didn’t want to hold or even really touch his new baby brother. Grandma and Grandpa were instantly in love with the new little guy. We got pizza from The Hub and had a pizza party in my room.
Derek and I had two more nights to stay in the hospital due to concerns about my blood pressure. I also developed a heart murmur that Debbie heard the evening she had planned to discharge me, and she was worried enough that she kept me another night. I did some google-ing and considered that it could be a “mammary souffle” which is a flow murmur resulting from increased blood flow to the breasts during lactation. After consulting with the OB in her group (who is also my PCP) and having her check me out in the morning she said that I was exactly right and it is temporary and benign. Phew! We finally could go home!
Elliott’s Birth Story – Short (Timeline) Version
February 15: 36 week prenatal visit – Cervix dilated 1cm, not effaced, but cervix was soft
February 22: Passed mucous plug and baby dropped down into pelvis
February 23 and 24: I had fluid leaking on both these nights after nighttime pee breaks.
February 25: Early morning cramps, skipped my morning swim, and midwife Debbie advised me to go to hospital to check the fluid. I was there from 9:30am – 2pm, fluid was not amniotic fluid and blood/urine tests were fine. Fetal strip showed regular contractions that I could feel but were painless. Doc was concerned about high blood pressures and urged me to go to clinic this week to recheck. In the afternoon I went to a baby shower and was on my feet for a few hours – feeling a few cramps and pressure as baby dropped lower.
10:45pm – I crawled into bed feeling low cramps and knowing *this was it*
12:20am – low cramps with contractions, more than 10-15 min apart
1:30am – Blood with using toilet. Woke Derek. Contractions 5 min apart, starting in low back. Then they were clustered (1 min long, not subsiding between much, 3 min apart). Changing position to hands/knees helped with the back pain.
3:30am – Vanessa arrived. I was tired, so I laid in bed on my side/stomach.
3:55am – TENS unit placed on my lower back.
4:40am – Packed for the hospital. Contractions 2-3min apart.
5:20am – Bypassed triage, straight to L&D room. Dilated to 5.5-6cm. Called Debbie.
6:07am – Feeling pressure, dilated to 7cm.
6:20am – Debbie arrived, for her check I was fully dilated, with a bulgy bag. BP 170/86. Discussed having her break water bag, but I declined at this time.
6:55am – Debbie checked cervix – anterior lip of cervix in the way. No urge to push. BP 145/73.
8:05am – Debbie checked cervix and thought it was more like 8-9cm. Either she didn’t get a good check earlier or the baby had moved.
8:15am – Sat in tub. Contractions spaced out more. Able to talk, eat pretzels and drink gatorade between contractions.
9:35am – Debbie checked cervix, and the anterior lip was still present! No urge to push.
10:30am – After discussion, I decided to have Debbie break the water bag. Things didn’t progress until the medical staff left the room and I could relax.
11:05am – After three pushes, Elliott is born! IM pitocin given, then 30 minutes later when the placenta still wasn’t delivered, IV pitocin was started. Elliott nursed 20-30 minutes each side for his first meal.
11:55am – Still no placenta. Hemabate injection given. Elliott’s stats: 6 lb 14 oz and 20 inches.
12:25pm – Two options for retained placenta: 1) A dilation and cutterage under anesthesia in the OR. 2) Debbie could manually remove it after IV pain medication.
12:30pm – I opted to stay in my room, so I was given IV fentanyl and the placenta was manually extracted – the most painful experience of my life!1