On the first anniversary of my son’s birth, which was actually yesterday, I am finally taking the time to write down his birth story. Fortunately, I now have a great venue to share it!
Saturday, July 13, 2013
I woke up around 3 a.m. with a pounding headache. My first thought was that I was dehydrated, so I drank water and tried to go back to sleep. With my head still throbbing, I thought taking a couple Tylenol might help. Around this time I started pacing around the bedroom, which woke up my light-sleeper husband, Dave. He inquired about what was wrong, and since my iPad was upstairs, we googled whether a headache indicated labor. Information we found pointed to the possibility of high blood pressure, associated with the scary pregnancy complication of preeclampsia, which my mother suffered from when she was pregnant with me, contributing to my 9-week premature birth. Since my blood pressure had been normal throughout my pregnancy and we didn’t have any way to take my blood pressure at home, I ended up going downstairs thinking that turning on the TV might help distract me or make me drowsy enough to fall back asleep. Silly me, you can’t concentrate on watching anything when your head is throbbing. So I turned off the TV and tried to fall asleep on the couch, thinking that sitting with my feet propped up or lying on the couch might help me get comfortable with my 38-week pregnant belly. Still no success on getting back to sleep.
Dave woke up suddenly from a dream and dashed downstairs to tell me. He rarely remembers his dreams, so it seemed significant. In this dream, his father was chastising him for going back to sleep and not taking my symptoms seriously. So he started looking up places to get my blood pressure taken at 5 a.m. Since it was a Saturday, the places we thought about trying wouldn’t be open until at least 9 a.m., so we called the after-hours nurse line at my OB’s office. The nurse asked a series of questions and advised me to go to the hospital to get checked out, since my headache had not subsided hours after taking medication and I was in the late stages of pregnancy.
As we walked out the door, Dave said “this is not how I imagined Levi being born.” Dave frantically drove me to The Woman’s Hospital of Texas, while I prayed for a healthy baby and mom and for Dave’s nerves to be calmed. In fact, I was pretty calm at this point. Dave was the one freaking out.
I was sent up to Labor and Delivery to get checked out. It was a little surreal having to change into a hospital gown and be hooked up to the fetal heart monitor. My blood pressure was elevated, but after several hours of monitoring, I was sent back home with instructions to drink plenty of water and rest on the couch for the remainder of the day. I did just that.
While this situation was a little scary, I was thankful that we had a practice run for the real thing.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The following Tuesday morning, I went into my OB’s office for my routine weekly check-up and to follow-up from our hospital visit the previous weekend. My blood pressure was normal, which was a good sign. Dr. Ball also told me I was starting to dilate. While I was only 1 cm, it was exciting that the process had begun!
With that in mind, I made sure to wrap up everything I could at work that week, just in case. Good thing I did.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
God must make pregnancy the most uncomfortable in the weeks leading up to childbirth so you are ready for it. At nearly 39 weeks pregnant, I was done being pregnant and couldn’t wait to meet my son. That coupled with not being able to travel to Kansas City to attend a good friend’s bridal shower led to me planning a fun-filled day based off of suggestions from an article I read about inducing childbirth naturally. Tips I tried included keeping busy to stay distracted, LOTS of walking, a foot massage and a little quality time with my husband. Catching up with friends was an excellent distraction and a lot of fun, especially considering we’d be in the midst of baby boot camp soon. So here’s what I did:
- Invigorating walk around the neighborhood with my husband
- Scrumptious brunch at Canopy with girlfriends
- Delightful dog show with girlfriends (one of whom is a vet and knows the ropes, which makes it all the more fun)
- Relaxing manicure and pedicure at Montrose Nails (I highly recommend regular pedicures during the third trimester—so relaxing!)
- Last-chance quality time with my husband (WebMD’s take on the effectiveness here)
- Spontaneously planned Houston Astros game and Tenth Avenue North concert at Minute Maid Park with Levi’s godfather and his wife
I have no idea if any of these activities truly helped induce labor naturally, but from my experience, it led to having a baby the next day.
Right before the Houston Astros game, around 6 p.m., I ran to the restroom because I thought I may have peed my pants a little—an unfortunate side effect of late pregnancy. So I scurried upstairs to change, just as our friends Ashley and Jason knocked on the door. I decided not to say anything to Dave about this, as it would be a little embarrassing especially in front of our friends. So we ate a quick dinner of something random, so the two pregnant ladies wouldn’t be starving at the game, then headed to Minute Maid Park. We arrived late, purchased cheap tickets and walked up what seemed like a million stairs to our nosebleed seats. At the game, I ate ice cream and chatted with Ashley the entire time, completely oblivious to the fact that what happened earlier that evening was my water bag leaking.
So there were a few signs that I missed out of inexperience: While we were walking around the concession area, I remember mentioning to Dave that I was feeling more pressure than usual. Also, when I went to the restroom at the game, I noticed a little spotting. While walking back to my seat, I started googling on my phone what that means. During the concert portion of the evening, when we had a few moments to ourselves, I shared with Dave what I learned about bloody show. He was giddy with excitement that we may be having a baby within hours or days. I tried to quiet him, as I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it in public.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
I hardly slept that night. I woke around 1 a.m. feeling uncomfortable. I started moving around the bedroom and bathroom, as walking and sitting seemed to be more comfortable than lying down. Dave woke up at some point and asked if my discomfort was coming and going in waves.
“Yes,” I responded.
“Hon’, I think you’re having contractions.”
“Oh. Is that what this is?”
Being the excited new dad who was informed from our childbirth classes, Dave started timing my contractions with one of my pregnancy apps. Once we had a little data to tell the nurse, I called my OB’s after-hours line. After a series of questions from the nurse, I realized that my possible bladder leak was more likely than not my water bag leaking. The nurse said she would put me in the system at the hospital, so they would be expecting us later that morning. We were instructed to come into the hospital once I started experiencing five contractions five minutes apart lasting for at least one minute over the course of an hour (our memory aid from childbirth class was 5-1-1). I called my mom to give her a heads up that I was in labor but that we weren’t heading to the hospital just yet.
Both my LD nurse friend and my four-times experienced natural childbirthing mom friend advised me to labor at home for as long as I could, since I wanted to have a natural (i.e. no drugs) childbirth. Dave interpreted this as a good time to fold the heaping pile of laundry—while helpful, I told him I’d much rather him pack his bag now, so that he could stay by my side and would not have to return home. I had made Dave a list of things to pack for him and the dog, so he got started on that. My bag, of course, was pre-packed, so I consulted my list of few things I needed to add at the last minute and made sure I was wearing shoes and decent PJs.
Since I finished first, I let out our dog, Percy, gathered what she needed and laid it by the door for our friend Sergio, who would be collecting her later that day. We learned during our so-called practice run that while we had a plan in place to care for our dog while we were in the hospital, we neglected to let her out or alert our friends who had a key and would be coming by to pick her up. Good reminder for the real thing!
Once we and our luggage were downstairs, Dave made smoothies for us both and encouraged me to drink it, since I wouldn’t be allowed to eat or drink at the hospital while in labor. I slowly finished mine. We then finally made the short trek to the hospital, more confident this time since we had a practice run the week prior.
We arrived at the hospital just prior to shift change, so I ended up having to tell my medical history twice. However, it was assuring that I would likely have the same nurse with me the entire time, considering that it turned out my OB wasn’t available that day. She had told me toward the end of my pregnancy she would be getting married in early August, so I knew that there was a possibility another OB would be delivering Levi.
Upon my first exam, around 7:30 a.m., I was 3.5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. The nurse also conducted a swab test to see if my leaking fluid the night before was indeed my water leaking or breaking. It turns out, it was amniotic fluid, so I would be having a baby that day! So it turns out I went to a baseball game and part of a post-game concert while in labor! Crazy!
Now that we knew we would be staying at the hospital, I called my mom, and my parents had already packed up the car and were just waiting for my call to start driving 12 hours to meet their first grand baby! I also texted a few close friends to let them know we’d be having a baby that day!
Because I had tested positive for the routine Group B Strep test at a recent OB appointment, an IV was immediately hooked up to administer an antibiotic every four hours. Oddly enough the antibiotic really stung! So I received an ice pack to numb the area where the needle was placed.
Since I wanted to deliver without an epidural, I tried a few natural ways of easing labor pains. Dave and I took many laps through the Labor and Delivery unit hallways to help keep things progressing, stopping periodically to place my hands on his shoulders to steady me as I breathed through contractions. Rocking in the rocking chair in my hospital room and standing while leaning on the raised bed were both helpful coping mechanisms.
The doctor asked the nurse to have me lay down every hour, so my nurse, Fabiola, could check the fetal heart rate. At one check Fabiola had trouble finding the data she needed and started to tell me that she needed to hook me up to an internal monitor for the baby. Dave and I recalled from our childbirth class that meant I would be stuck in bed the rest of labor, and we challenged whether that was really necessary at this stage. The nurse brought in the OB, Dr. Bruce, and she said that their need for data did not supersede my comfort during labor. Win for being educated about the process and sticking up for what you want! I really appreciated my husband helping advocate on my behalf, as there were moments when I just didn’t feel very good or was really out of it. It was good knowing that he was worrying about the political side of how I wanted to deliver, so I didn’t have to.
During all this, Dave would make periodic phone calls or text messages to keep friends and family in the loop, alert our friend Sergio to pick up Percy and take care of a few random errands (thanks so much for that!), and cancel our lunch plans with friends Roy and Linda. Since Dave was supposed to be leading a prayer at church that Sunday, he told Jason, who leads worship, and it turns out the church prayed for a healthy mom and baby. The prayers were really encouraging, especially the ones friends texted to me to let me know that I could do this. Those kind notes brought me to tears but gave me courage to keep going.
I had the opportunity to call my sister, Kayla, and tell her I was getting her a nephew for her 26th birthday. This special date encouraged me to try to make a self-imposed midnight deadline, so Levi and Kayla would be birthday twins!
Throughout the first part of the day, I was making steady progress—5 cm and 80% effaced at 9:15 a.m., then 6.5 cm and 80% effaced at 1:40 p.m. Things started slowing down after that, as I was at 7 cm and 90% effaced at 4 p.m. then no progress at my 5 p.m. check. At some point, Dave asked at if there was any risk of having a C-section since I’d technically been in labor since 6 p.m. the night before. The OB assured us that since I was making progress and receiving an antibiotic every four hours, she would be fine letting me continue—that was a relief!
Contractions were really starting to get intense and were bringing me to tears. Not progressing after a really intense hour led me to cry, “Epidural!” Seeing me in pain was also starting to take a toll on my husband; he later told me the OB told him to buck up and get it together. I also recall consoling him at some point as well. It’s nice to know that he was empathizing with me.
Dr. Bruce came through for me again, as she immediately came in when I told the nurse I wanted an epidural and reminded me that I said from the beginning I didn’t want one. She asked again, and through tears I assured her I was ready for one. She went ahead and called the anesthesiologist, and he was in my room administering the epidural within minutes. Very quickly the pain subsided enough that I was able to take a breather in between contractions. Unfortunately, the epidural wasn’t as strong on my right side as my left, but it helped take the edge off. So I made it 23 hours into labor without any pain medication. If I would have progressed more quickly, I may have been able to make it, but I know that having an epidural gave me the confidence to push with all my might and not fear what that would feel like.
After that, I was relegated to the hospital bed and hooked up to all sorts of things. Dr. Bruce then finished breaking my water bag and started pumping pitocin to get things moving. We turned on the “Welcome Home, Levi!” playlist we made as a pleasant distraction. While I kept progressing, it was slow. In fact, there was another shift change before I even got to the pushing stage. I again had to answer all sorts of medical history questions for my new nurse, Jennifer. I was also assigned another OB, Dr. Funyip, but she told me about her birthing experience, which was really comforting.
As the evening progressed, my memory gets a little fuzzy, as I was drifting in and out of it. I do remember being thrilled that my parents arrived at 9 p.m., just before I started pushing. So thankful that they made it in time!
Shortly after my parents arrived, Dr. Funyip came in and said, “It’s time to start pushing.” She and Jennifer gave me a quick tutorial in how to effectively push, then Jennifer grabbed my right leg and Dave my left, and we got started. My mom stayed in the room, but my dad went out to the waiting room. It seemed like I was pushing forever—turned out to be two hours, as Levi was stuck on my pelvic bone for a while. I remember Dave dropping my leg at some point because he was texting friends and family that Levi would soon be making his appearance. I sternly told him to put down his phone and pick up my leg, which I could not hold up myself because of the epidural. He obliged and apologized. Funny moment. Toward the end of the pushing stage, the top of Levi’s head was visible, and the doctor had me reach down to feel Levi’s hair. Dave’s excitement and my being able to physically feel that Levi was emerging gave me the stamina to make it through those final pushes. I kept saying that I wanted to see what our baby looks like. The nurse and doctor encouraged me to focus on this.
At 11:18 p.m., 29 hours after labor began, I heard the sweetest little cry from our baby boy, Levi David, while JJ Heller’s “I Get To Be The One (2011)” played on my iPhone. The nurse placed our tiny son in my arms, and Dave and I greeted him. I had previously instructed Dave to stay with Levi at all times after he was born, so he followed Levi over to the baby warmer and discovered Levi was just 9 grams shy of the NICU cut-off at 5 pounds, 11 ounces. He measured 19.25 inches. We certainly weren’t expecting such a small baby, but Levi was healthy, and we were thankful for being entrusted with this amazing blessing!
I’ll talk more about postpartum concerns and my first days breastfeeding in later posts.
Until then, happy birthday to my energetic little boy, Levi! We love you!