Birth Story I: Welcome Ryan August
On Wednesday, May 13, 2015 at 8:05pm my life changed forever. After twenty-four hours of labor, I became a mom.
I found out I was pregnant on September 7, 2014 – the same day my husband proposed five years earlier. (Side note: there's a thing with us and dates) On Christmas Eve of 2014, we found out the gender, we were having a boy!
After taking a labor and birth class at the hospital I was inspired to play an active role in my labor so I began researching birth planning. I realized my main goal for my labor was to allow things to progress as naturally as possible and avoid medical interventions unless they were absolutely necessary. I wrote out my birth plan and shared it with my doctor. I left that appointment feeling so much more confident knowing that she was aware of and would respect my wishes during my labor. (Labor prep: I highly recommend creating and going over a birth plan with your doctor before your due date). Get your free copy of my Birth Plan Template here. Then, at my next appointment, my doctor threw a huge curve ball.
She had just been invited to speak at a conference in the week of my due date and there was a chance another doctor (aka Doctor #2) in her practice would have to deliver my baby. Finding out that the doctor who was by my side throughout my entire pregnancy journey might not be by my side on the delivery day left me feeling more than uneasy. Nevertheless, she introduced me to Doctor #2 and they were both fairly confident that my primary doctor would be back in time to deliver my baby since she was returning on May 14th, a day before my due date, and "most first pregnancies go past due date." Riiight...
On Monday, May 11th, I had a routine appointment. My primary doctor was already away at her conference. I was told I was one centimeter dilated, but there was no indication that I would go into labor before my due date, Friday, May 15th. I thought, great!
The next morning, Tuesday, May 12th, when I woke up and went to the bathroom I noticed a pinkish, gooey discharge in my underwear. There it was, my first labor sign! I had had my "bloody show." I didn't feel different otherwise so I put on a panty liner and went about my day. My girlfriend and I had plans to have lunch. I suggested we walk to lunch thinking I could help kick start things for when my primary doctor returned from her trip later in the week. We walked about a mile to and a mile back from lunch. When we got back home I remembered I had been wanting to watch the documentary "The Business of Being Born" but kept putting it off for one reason or another, so we decided to put it on. (Labor prep: make time to watch this super informative documentary during your pregnancy!)
As we started the film I began feeling light cramping in my thighs. I assumed I was just sore from the walk. Midway through the film, I was still experiencing light cramping, now in my abdomen too. My girlfriend left, and at around 8pm Art got home from work. I was still watching the film. My cramps grew more intense and I assumed that this was just how I was supposed to feel in the week leading up to my due date. I was still convinced I had ways to go before actually going into labor. By around 9pm my cramps were A LOT more intense and frequent. I was still in denial but Art knew what was happening. He was as calm as a cucumber, per usual, writing down the times of my cramps (actually contractions) just like he had learned to do in our labor and birth class. I decided to hop in the shower and freshen up in case I was totally crazy and something was in fact happening.
I got out of the shower and could barely walk through my contractions (I knew they were contractions and not cramps at that point!) and was breathing heavier. That's when I remember it finally hit me that I could actually be in labor. I dialed the doctor on call and explained about having my "bloody show" in the morning and experiencing contractions that started later in the day, and his exact words to me were, "I don't want you to freak out, but you are in labor." He proceeded to tell me to pack my things and head to the hospital.
It was just passed midnight when we arrived at the hospital. By this time, I had been laboring since 8pm and could no longer walk through my contractions. I was three centimeters dilated and admitted right away. We were moved to my room in labor and delivery at around 2am. The contractions were super intense but my goal was to endure as long as I could without any medical interventions. I was offered an epidural right away. (Labor tip: try to get to at least four to five centimeters dilated before getting an epidural, as getting it sooner may prolong labor and increase your chance of a C-section) A nurse inserted an IV in the top of my hand for fluids and in case any medications would need to be administered immediately. That fucking IV was the most painful part of my entire labor experience! (Labor tip: ask to have the IV inserted anywhere else that is allowed other than the top of your hand) She would then come in from time to time to check on me. Things were progressing slowly.
At around 5am I was back and forth between being hunched over in Art's arms and my bed due to the intensity of my contractions. The pain was so intolerable I threw up. As I threw up, my water broke. I found out later it only part way broke. The next time the nurse came in I had her check my progress right away. The pain was so bad I was sure I was at least eight centimeters dilated. I had to be! Somehow, I tolerated the nurse checking, and I was ONLY five centimeters dilated. Five centimeters! I was so discouraged. I already felt like I had run a marathon. How would I ever make it to the finish line? I gathered my composure and refocused my energy. Yes, I wanted to have a natural birth but I was always open to an epidural should the pain get so bad that I could no longer continue on effectively in my labor. I knew I had gotten to that point. I endured a little longer and around 8am I decided to get a low dose epidural which would allow me to feel from my knees down. Basically, I was only numb in my pelvic region. It felt good knowing I wouldn't be completely out of control and could still be active in my labor.
Post epidural, my body relaxed and I was able to take a nap. I woke up a few hours later and I was seven centimeters dilated. Progress! Around noon I was resting in bed and chatting with Art and my mom. I felt good but sensed that the nurses wanted to see things progress a little faster. Doctor #2 arrived to check on me. Yep, my primary doctor was still out of town so Doctor #2 would be delivering my baby. (Labor tip: things don’t always go according to plan. Don’t allow surprises to deter you on your journey) She confirmed I was about seven to eight centimeters dilated and then headed back to her office to see her remaining appointments. She would return when I was ready to push.
Around 4pm the nurse came in to check my progress again. I was nine centimeters dilated – still not ready to push. That’s when things took a turn for the worse. I started to run a fever. The nurses began panicking, and so did we. They brought me an oxygen mask and Art began to pat me down with ice and cold compresses. I felt defeated, and like the hospital was about to intervene and get my baby out another away. Thankfully, after fifteen minutes and with ice cubes down my back, my temperature dropped to normal. Now I just needed to get to ten centimeters!
My doctor showed up at around 5pm. She checked and OMG I was ten centimeters dilated and ready to start pushing! Everyone was exhausted and hungry, so my sister ran out to pick up Porto’s. Of course, potato balls would refuel everyone and save the day! I vividly remember the image of my doctor pacing the room with potato ball in hand. About two hours into pushing I started to run a fever again. Shit! I could sense my doctor’s concern. She mentioned something about a possible infection which could be the cause of my fever. I continued to focus on pushing and getting my baby out. She could see the top of my baby’s head peek out and push back in. I knew he was working hard to get out and I wanted to work harder for him. Almost three hours into pushing, my doctor (who knew how against interventions I was) mentioned having to possibly use a vacuum to help suction my baby out because I had been laboring for almost twenty-four hours and was now running a fever. My baby was at risk of infection and at risk in general for having been in the birth canal for hours. That was all the motivation I needed to push my heart out! Wednesday, May 13th at 8:05pm, with the next round of pushes, my baby boy, Ryan August, was born. The nurse placed him in my arms and in that moment there was nothing else that mattered in the world. It truly was the most magical experience of my life.
Oh how I wish I had more than just a moment with him. The brightest, most beautiful day of my life was also one of the darkest. Ryan was immediately whisked away out of my arms to the NICU to be treated for a possible infection. I was being stitched up and in a state of delusion and didn’t have time to process what was happening. My doctor explained that because I ran a fever twice during labor, as a precautionary measure they would have to treat Ryan with antibiotics in case I had an infection that was passed on to him during labor. I wouldn’t be allowed to hold him for the next twenty-four hours until an infection was ruled out. I could only watch from behind a glass window as Art visited with him. My heart broke into a million pieces. I had never felt such pain and emptiness in my life.
The next day my doctor confirmed that I didn’t have an infection and that my fever was likely a result of intense laboring. But we weren’t completely out of the woods. The doctors had sent Ryan’s culture to the lab for testing, and although an infection was ruled out for me, the protocol was to complete the testing for Ryan before he was released from the NICU. I was devastated. I just wanted to hold my son without a million wires attached to his tiny little body, experience skin to skin, nurse… take him home.
I wish there was someone to tell us everything would be ok in those hours that Ryan spent in the NICU. I was angry at my doctor, the nurses... the universe. I was lost. Why were they still monitoring Ryan if my infection was ruled out? It was the worst feeling ever not knowing when we could take our baby boy home. But looking back now, as hard as it was living through it, I’m thankful that my doctor and the hospital staff took all the necessary measures to protect Ryan. What if he did have an infection and I had taken him home without the additional care in the NICU? That outcome would have been much worse. Each labor experience is unique; each labor story is different. Studying labor and knowing others’ experiences will not prepare you for your own. Your experience will be beautiful and memorable, no matter what surprises are in store. Your experience will be yours.
Thankfully, in the end, Ryan didn't have an infection and everything turned out ok. We were finally able to take our baby boy home after six nights in the hospital. It was no longer just a dream. I was a mom. And, Ryan captured my whole heart from the start.