it all started the evening of thursday, september 10. i started getting some pretty strong cramps with sharp back pains. they were more powerful than the previous braxton hicks i had experienced, but weren't very time-able so i wasn't sure if they were real contractions. and after a warm bath and nicolaus massaging some counter-pressure points on my back, i was able to fall asleep. i woke up every few hours from the pain, which still hadn't subsided by morning. i was 95% sure we were going to be sent home, but nicolaus and i packed up our car and headed to the hospital to see what was going on. just to be safe. i was pretty nervous and anxious at this point, so nicolaus gave me a blessing and those sweet words comforted me through what was to come.
when we got to the hospital, they checked me they said i was one centimeter dilated and about 70% effaced, which was something considering i had showed no signs of progression when i had been checked a few days earlier. i was hooked up to some monitors and turns out i was having irregular but pretty constant contractions. the nurse told me i was in early labor which could last hours or could last days. at this point i was hoping it wasn't hours, because it was september 11th, and that was the one day i was hoping baby boy wouldn't choose as his birthdate...
so nicolaus and i began the waiting game. we took it pretty easy that first day and poor nicolaus was so on edge that first night. every time i rustled around and woke up from the pain, he shot over, wide awake, and asked, "are you okay? do we need to go to the hospital?" haha i kept telling him no, even though the contraction timing app i had downloaded wasn't helping my case...it kept telling me to go the hospital. so when the contractions and back pains persisted into the next morning, he insisted that we go to the hospital again because he didn't want to be "one of those couples that has their baby in the car on the way to the hospital." i reluctantly told him we could go, but we were just going to get sent home again and the nurses were all going to think we're paranoid. haha and i was right. well, mostly right. there had been no more progression and we did get sent home again, but the nurses just thought it was really cute how concerned nicolaus was. and the visit eased up nicolaus' tension a bit, and he agreed that we wouldn't go to the hospital again until i said we needed to.
we spent the rest of saturday and sunday watching bad reality tv to get my mind off what felt like really bad period cramps and hanging out with family. plus we were implementing all the kick-start-your-labor tips we had heard of. i was taking primrose oil, eating pineapple, going on long walks, getting foot massages, having dance parties and even drinking castor oil almost seemed appealing. and by the end of sunday evening, after family dinner and games, my contractions started feeling stronger and i was afraid my water had maybe broken. there had been no gushing like most people experience, but there was a trickle that kept happening, and i had heard could also mean your water had broken. i knew it was bad if you weren't in active labor about 24 hours after your water had broken, so i thought we could go in to the hospital again the next morning. but as i was trying to fall asleep, i experienced my first "real contraction". it took real focus to get through, and was not one i could walk or talk through by any means. i had never been so happy to experience that kind of discomfort before. i was convinced this meant active labor was beginning.
we hopped into our still packed-and-ready-for-the-hospital car and drove back to the hospital in the middle of the night. when they checked me and said my water hadn't broken and i was only one and a half centimeters dilated and maaaybe 80% effaced, i thought i was going to lose it. i was so discouraged and didn't know how much longer i could handle these restless days/nights of discomfort and waiting. the nurse offered me a shot of morphine to help me get some sleep that night, but i declined, mostly due to my phobia of needles.
so we went home once again, but as soon as we got there, my contractions had significantly revved up. they hit my exhausted body so hard and strong that i was shaking uncontrollably and all the tricks that had helped ease my early labor had completely stopped working. and it seemed like everything i had learned/spent months practicing from my hypnobirthing classes was doing absolutely nothing. as i was trying to focus on one of my hypnobirthing tracks, it said something about the "gentle, peaceful birth nature intended" and i looked at nicolaus and said, "this doesn't feel gentle. i need that morphine." and back to the hospital we went.
the car ride there was all a blur of blinding pain and once we got there i knew i was past the point of walking, so nick drove up to the door and helped me in a wheelchair. for some reason i insisted that he leave me there, park the car, then wheel me in. he wanted to check me in first, but i insisted he park the car first. ha, so he did. but before he got back, the receptionist had spotted me outside and wheeled me straight back into the hospital without bothering to have me check in again. so nicolaus was pretty concerned when he got back to the door and i was gone. haha, he said only the security guard was in the check in room and luckily when nick told the guard, "i lost my wife..." he let nicolaus through into my room.
i was still in a blur of blinding pain and kept moaning, "where is the nurse??" to poor nicolaus who was trying his best to comfort me, but it just felt like it took the nurse an eternity to get there and i was certain i couldn't endure one more of these contractions which were coming quickly and powerfully, with hardly any resting time between them. and once the nurse got there and checked me again (which, yes, felt like torture), she said i was four centimeters dilated and nearly fully effaced. and it had been less than an hour since she had checked me before. she said i was to the point i could get an epidural, which i had not been planning on doing, and i hesitated for a minute and said to nicolaus, "will i regret it? i just can't remember why i didn't want one..." ha, to which he replied, "mostly you were afraid of the needle." and the second another one of those hellish contractions hit, i told the nurse, "yes, please get me that epidural." she comforted me by saying, "you've experienced enough of labor. the anesthesiologist is here now, i'll go get him and another nurse will get you into your room and start your iv."
so into our official room we went, and when the nurse started my iv, i started to panic on top of the writhing agony i was feeling. i have a real fear of needles and don't even like talking about veins, so when i felt her poking around, i kept just repeating to nicolaus, "i hate this. oh i hate this." and then the anesthesiologist got there and immediately started listing off everything that could possibly go wrong with an epidural. which did not ease my fears. i figured there was some sort of law that makes them do this, but i found out later that other mamas did not have these horrors listed to them. so i'm in a full blown panic now, and can't keep my body from convulsing through the contractions. it felt like some form of sick torture when they told me i had to sit up, sign something to get the epidural (i opened my eyes enough to scribble on the blurry line, see the intense worry in nick's face and the face of the anesthesiologist who i did not think looked old enough to be doing this), then lean forward to get the shot. i leaned into nicolaus and used every hypnobirthing mind trick to calm down enough to stay still and ignore the fact that a fat needle was being shoved into my spine.
once he was done and sweet relief started to spread through my stomach/body, i still didn't feel quite right. my doctor had arrived at this point and checked my progression again and i was already at a six, but there had apparently been a gush of blood, which had them concerned i had placenta previa. plus, even though the contraction pain was subsiding, i still couldn't get my body to quit shaking or my breathing to normalize. i think i was maybe experiencing some sort of panic attack and i think it was also stressing out baby. because his heart rate was insanely high. like off the charts high. and as they kept checking my vitals, my temperature was spiking and my blood pressure was dropping. all i could hear was low, serious conversation between the nurse and doctor (apparently they had an emergency c-section room prepped and ready to go at this point) and baby's heart rate monitor beeping way too fast and when i opened my eyes all i could see was nick's face which i've never seen look more worried. they put on oxygen mask on me to help my breathing and i knew i had to calm down to get baby to calm down.
nick started talking to me and the belly which immediately helped, and i used more of my hypnobirthing techniques to tune out the monitors and doctors and focus on my breathing, nick's voice and our baby. i was praying and focusing and praying some more. and surely enough it worked. as my body relaxed and stopped shaking, baby's heart rate and my blood pressure regulated. i learned later that the doctor and nurse were moments away from wheeling me into the c-section room, but once things calmed down, instead they just kept an eye on mine and baby's vitals for about an hour to ensure that they were going to stay normal.
when things kept looking (and feeling) good, the doctor came in and told us he was going home now, and would be back later to check on me/deliver our baby. that was exciting news! ha, it was about 4:30 in the morning by now and nicolaus and i decided to get some sleep before calling and alerting our parents (even though they kept telling us to let them know as soon as i was officially admitted to the hospital, we figured there wasn't much to do at this point, and we desperately needed rest). before we fell asleep, the nurse had to start me on an antibiotic because of my fever and showed me how to use the blue button when the epidural started to wear off. at this point i was pretty happy all drugged up and kept telling nick how great i felt. haha and he told me how scared he had been for a minute there and he'd never seen anyone act like that, and asked "have you ever seen the exorcism before? it was kinda like that..." haha and on that note, we fell asleep for a few glorious hours.
when i woke up from what felt like the deepest sleep i had experienced in months, i kept telling nicolaus that "every pregnant women should be on an epidural for the last three months of pregnancy." haha and in much better spirits than the night before, we called our parents and let them know of all the excitement we had experienced since we had seen them the previous evening.
our families came to the hospital and we were hanging out in the room with us, chatting and laughing and eagerly awaiting our new family member. unfortunately, my progression had seriously slowed down and they had to start me on pitocin to rev up my labor, since they were worried about baby being in there for too long after my fever and his heart rate spiking like that. my drug-free birth plan was totally out the window by now, and i just wanted my baby out and healthy so i was fine with that. and once i was finally fully dilated and effaced at about 2:00 pm on monday, september 14, everyone but nicolaus was kicked out of the room and it was time to start pushing.
when the doctor came in to check on me and baby boy, he discovered baby boy was unfortunately in the posterior position, which is not optimal for a smooth birth. he tried turning him, but to no avail. nicolaus suggested i tried getting on my hands and knees, because our hypnobirthing class had taught that that was a good position to spin babies around, if needed. i was mostly numb from the epidural, but figured it was worth a shot. the nurse and nick helped me get in position, and once i was there it was pretty easy to lock in and it felt good to push like that. the two nurses helping with early pushing said they had never seen someone on an epidural push like that, and nicolaus cracked a few inappropriate jokes about me being limber...haha which really set the mood for the rest of the pushing experience.
i had my music playing and lavender oil diffusing in the background, while nicolaus was on a roll with his quips and literally had the nurses in tears from laughter. they kept saying it was the most fun labor they had ever experienced...haha and i could feel enough pressure that i was able to discern when i needed to push and there were a few times we were all giggling even through the pushes. the pushing process was one of the most empowering and incredible things i have ever experienced, and it felt like it flew by. i thought the whole thing took maybe 30 minutes, but learned later from our families that it took a solid 2 hours and felt like an eternity to them.
once baby's head was crowning, the doctor got there to deliver him. the hands and knees position had turned him enough that he wasn't completely posterior anymore, thank goodness. and as he was coming out, there were some remarks from nicolaus and the nurses of his size, which i chose to ignore, because i was not about to think about how large he was as i was pushing him out of me. ha, and once he was out at 4:09 pm, i experienced this insane adrenaline high. colors seemed brighter and sharper as my baby was handed to me. but i knew something was wrong when his little body felt limp and the doctor had nicolaus immediately cut the cord, even though i had requested delayed cord clamping (i found out later that my cord was already done pulsing when he came out). within moments, my precious little babe was whisked away from me and when i looked over to my left i noticed that our room was packed with about 15 doctors and nurses who had apparently been on standby because our doctor had a hunch they may be needed, after our scare the night before.
i couldn't see what they were doing to our baby and all i could see was a terrified look on nick's face. i asked my doctor if he was okay, and he hesitated before saying, "he will be. this is why we have babies in hospitals." at this point i was praying harder than i ever had before and ignoring the strange sensation of my placenta coming out and discomfort of stitches from a fading epidural and was focused in on nick's face. i learned later that the doctors bagged baby, because his cord had been wrapped around his shoulder and the back of his neck and because he was so big, and everything was so smashed coming out of me, it had cut off oxygen flow and he wasn't breathing when he came out. and his poor little body and face were so blue and purple because he had been smashed against my cervix for so long that he was extremely bruised.
after what felt like an eternity, i heard my baby let out a whimper and felt the tension in the room ease and a nurse even cracked a smile, and i felt a huge wave of relief. they handed my baby back to me for a fleeting moment of skin to skin. i'm so glad a nurse thought to grab our camera and snag a few photos, that i had no idea were taken until a few days later. and i can't believe how purple our baby's face was. because when he was on my chest and i started talking to him, all i saw were his big, dark eyes open up and look straight at me. and i honestly thought my heart was going to explode with happiness and love for him. the doctors also said later that being skin to skin with me, even if only for a moment, helped baby's breath to regulate.
all too soon, baby boy was whisked away from me again and taken to the level 2 nursery (our hospital's equivalent of a nicu). luckily, nicolaus was able to go with him while i had to stay behind while the doctor and nurse finished cleaning and fixing me up. the nurses and doctors were really good about explaining what was going on, as soon as possible. and i had our families come back into my room and they were able to go look at our babe through the window and assured me he was just hanging out and doing fine. he had to be hooked up to a lot of different things to monitor his heart rate and breathing and all sorts of vitals but apparently he was a lot braver than i am through those kinds of things. and he was just sprawled out (it must have felt great to stretch after a cozy few months), looking around and hanging out.
and once i was all ready to go, i got wheeled into his room and got to hold him skin to skin again. and as soon as i did he just snuggled into me, regardless of all the wires and cords between the two of us and fell asleep within minutes. it was the sweetest thing i've ever experienced, and i finally understand that "newborn smell" that mamas are always talking about. i also kept saying "how did he fit inside of me?!" he was a whopping 9 lbs 7 oz and 22.5 inches!
and nicolaus and i were pretty sure we wanted to name our babe after nick's dad, niels, but my one reservation was that i couldn't imagine a baby named niels and i needed to see what he looked like before i fully committed to it. but we both immediately knew he was a niels and there was no question about it! he even looks uncannily similar to niels the first.
and mostly since this birth story is turning into way more of a novel then i intended, i'll summarize our two day hospital stay by saying it was a total whirlwind. breastfeeding was pretty tricky between all the wires and cords and with niels' poor, bruised body. then they had to put an oxygen tube on him when his oxygen levels dropped. then they detected a heart murmur, which thank heavens, was not the bad kind of heart murmur we only learned after they had someone come check it. and we weren't sure until hours before we left if niels was going to be able to be released with us. but luckily, everything remained stable enough for him to be taken off oxygen and the monitors and between pumping and feeding he ingested enough colustrum to be taken off his iv, and was allowed to come home with us.
we did have to go back to the hospital and the doctor's office the next day to check his bilirubin levels, and he ended up having jaundice so he needed to spend the next two days on uv lights. but luckily those helped decrease his jaundice to the point it wasn't dangerous anymore. and we had figured out the whole breastfeeding thing which was such a relief. baby niels may have had a bit of a bumpy start, but he was such a trooper through it all and it took a few days, but things have settled down and we are so insanely grateful for our little angel baby. and now we are living in a happy, sleepy newborn haze filled with more love than we had ever imagined.