Birth Story III: Welcome Max Gharibian

Birth Story III: Welcome Max Gharibian

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My third little boy, Max Gharibian, was born on Friday, May 17, 2019 at 7:32am at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, CA. Here’s the story…

Preparing for Labor #3

How I went into labor this time was a very, very different experience than my first two labors. I’m so glad that I got to work with Rachel Adler of Doulaworks to prep emotionally and mentally. Rachel founded Doulaworks to bring her expertise both as a parent and a doula to expecting mothers and provide them with the resources and support they need to achieve their goals and dreams as mothers and at work. I was so grateful for this experience with Rachel, especially because I was so nervous going into it this time.

In addition to a client portal full of customized client resources from birth preference worksheets to online resources to recommended products, Rachel met with me twice in the month leading up to my labor and was a constant support to me through texting conversations. She constantly reminded me that no labor story is the same, to not put expectations on this one, and to go into it open-minded. She was so absolutely right, because this one turned out so different from the other two! When I had Ryan and when I had Leo, their labor stories were very similar, except for the fact that Leo was a back labor. In the end, they were even born within minutes of each other time-wise! Max came into this world very differently for sure, and he’s already proving to be a different child.

Pre-Labor Signs

For about three days, starting on Tuesday, May 14 through Thursday, May 16, I had been experiencing some leaking in my underwear—a little bit of mucus-y discharge, but not like the mucus plug experience that I had before I went into labor with Ryan and Leo. It was enough that it would soak my underwear, and I’d have to change, so eventually I just decided to wear a panty liner. I called my doctor’s office to see what was going on.

They asked me to come in right away to check and make sure that the leaking wasn’t amniotic fluid. If they could rule that out, then I could go home, but if it was, it would have meant that my water bag had ruptured, and I would have to be admitted to the hospital. I was so nervous and not feeling ready for labor, so I texted Rachel Adler on the way, and she talked me through my feelings and helped calm my nerves, which was really helpful.

So I went in, and my doctor, Dr. Francis Teng—who I love dearly and who was also my doctor in my first two pregnancies—confirmed that the leaking fluid was not amniotic fluid. Art and I were so sure that this was it that we had our hospital bags all packed and ready to go in the car… but she said that it was just fluid that was in between where the water bag is and not a sign that I was in labor. I was super relieved because, as I mentioned last week on social media, I was fighting a bad cold. I thought, oh my gosh, I get to go home and have another day or two to hopefully get better! I didn’t want to go into labor—which is such a tough thing on your body anyway—sick and not be able to push or not have the strength to move forward knowing my other two labors were so long and tumultuous.

So we went about our day: we picked up the boys from school at their usual time, went and had dinner as a family, and then came home. That evening Ryan and Leo were having a particularly tough night, so Art slept next to Ryan in his bed and I slept next to Leo in his bed… just so they could be comforted. Looking back, it was so sweet that we were bunking altogether that night!

Labor Beginnings

At 2am I was awakened by painful, painful contractions. I thought, is this it? They were so strong, but inconsistent, so I decided not to wake up Art just yet.

I went to my room and sat there for a minute and tried to process what I was feeling, Could this be me in labor right now? Leading up to that week I had been having on and off contractions that would never be consistent, but this pain felt different. It was a lot harder than what I was having earlier in the week, enough so that it woke me up from my sleep. And sure enough, it didn’t stop. It just kept going, and then there was consistency.

It was time. I woke up Art and said, “I think I’m in labor.” Thankfully, we had both already showered right before bed, so we just called my parents and had them come over to be with the boys. At this time, it was around 2:30am. As I’m walking around gathering my things, the pain is just getting so extreme—so extreme that I’m now crying through contractions, and Art is just trying to comfort me and do the counteractive massages. At 2:55am, I’m leaning over my bed through one of the contractions when out of nowhere, gush, gush, gush, my water broke! I never experienced that with the other two. My pants were soaked—everything was soaked—and I was like, whoa, so this is what other women go through when they describe their water breaking. Minutes after that, my parents walked in. My pain now was excruciating, like I’d never, never experienced this level of pain in my life. My water breaking made everything escalate so quickly.

Journey to the Hospital

I managed to change my pants in between contractions and we ran out the door. We have to drive through a canyon to get to the freeway and then the hospital, and every bump on that canyon, I just could not handle because the pain was so excruciating. I was literally screaming like an animal through the contractions in the car. At one point, I had to have Art stop the car and I had to literally get out because I couldn’t sit on my bottom through the contraction. I ended up going to the backseat, getting on all fours, and hunching my head over into the baby car seat and trying to just manage myself through the pain until we got to the hospital.

I was just screaming and crying my eyes out when we got to the hospital at 3:15am. I got out and, thankfully, we were able to call security to let us in from the regular entrance instead of having to go to the ER entrance, which would have had me wait even longer. They rolled me into the triage area immediately, and I was in so much pain I was just asking them, “How soon can I get my epidural? How soon can I get my epidural?” because this was so unbearable, I could not even breathe. The worst thing to hear is that you have to wait, because they had to check to see how dilated I was, they had to get me an IV, and there were steps they had to take to monitor me and make sure that I was at the point of labor that they needed me to be at in order to move me to Labor & Delivery. You’d think the animalistic screams and tears rolling down my face would have been a sure sign, right?! They had to do all those checks while I was going through this intense pain, and I couldn’t even allow anyone to touch me down there or anywhere. Eventually when they did check me they said that I was between five and six centimeters dilated.

How My Body Handles Labor

Every woman’s body is different. Some women say they don’t feel as much pain until 8, 9, even 10 centimeters and some might be able to push without an epidural. With my body, personally, I would never be able to do it knowing what I’ve experienced. With Ryan, I took the epidural at five centimeters and I was already in excruciating pain at that point. With Leo, I took it at four and was already in unbearable pain at that moment. So you could imagine, being between five and six, I was dying with Max.

Father’s hand on pregnant belly at hospital during labor and delivery, from the birth story of Max Gharibian, son of happy mom El Abad of Land of Mom
Tired mama lying in hospital bed during labor, from the birth story of Max Gharibian, son of happy mom El Abad of Land of Mom

Labor & Delivery

The nurses tried to help me walk over to Labor & Delivery, because I just couldn’t sit in the wheelchair—I couldn’t sit on my bottom, period. I was just screaming in the hallways and probably looked like such a crazy person. I remember thinking, Thank God they’ve probably seen this a million times before so they can't think I'm completely nuts haha. So I finally got to the room at around 4:30am, and I was literally begging for the epidural. But, I had to wait. They would have to get the IV in me first to be able to hydrate me and take care of me in that way. And of course, they could not find a good vein, so they poked me twice in my left arm and could not get a good IV going. The anesthesiologist came in and I recognized him right away from my labor with Leo and I was just so thrilled to see him, it was like a Hallelujah! moment, seriously. He noticed that the nurses were struggling with my IV and he was like, “Do you want me to help you with that?” He went to my right arm and was able to do it on his first try, thank God.

I was just so ready for my epidural, but again, I couldn’t let them do it during any of the contractions, and they were coming on so fast. Then they had to check me again before they gave me the epidural to see how dilated I was because they could see that labor was progressing super fast. At this point they said I was between seven and eight. Finally, at 5am, they were ready to give me the epidural. So I hunkered down, and it took about 15 minutes or so for it to start kicking in.

Oh my gosh, I was so thankful for hospitals and medication in that moment!

They called my doctor, and she actually had two other patients in labor at the same time as me, so she had a really busy night. She walked in the room at 6am and didn’t think that I would be as far as I was, but then she checked and said, “She’s pretty much ready to push.” I was already at 10 centimeters when she came in! Crazy fast! They wanted to stall me so Dr. Teng could deliver another baby before mine. I’ve never had that happen before, where labor went so fast that I would have to be stalled. My nurse started doing a bit of pushing with me around 6:30am, but she didn’t want me to push too hard because she didn’t want the baby to come out without my doctor.

I was laying on my side mildly pushing, and I was a little bit nauseated from the epidural and had the shakes, so that was really hard. They got me some oxygen with the oxygen mask, and that helped a lot. Then Dr. Teng came in around 7:15am, and honestly a lot of this was a blur, but between the pushes with the nurse and then with Dr. Teng, I think there were only six rounds of pushes, which is insanely short compared to what I went through the other two times. Each round was about three sets of pushing for ten seconds, then stopping for ten seconds. He was coming out so easily that I was able to ask for a mirror, and they put a mirror in front of me. So it was really amazing for me to actually get to watch this experience, because I didn’t get to see life come out of me in that way with the other two. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Overall, super swift and sweet!

Crying newborn baby held by nurse at hospital after labor and delivery, from the birth story of Max Gharibian, son of happy mom El Abad of Land of Mom
Mama holding newborn baby son after labor and delivery in hospital, from the birth story of Max Gharibian, son of happy mom El Abad of Land of Mom

Max Arrives!

At 7:32am, we welcomed baby Max!

He came out perfect, a beautiful little boy who looked like a chunkier version of his older brother, Ryan. He’s my biggest boy at 8 lbs 1 oz and 21 inches tall. They put him right on my chest, and it was such a beautiful experience. I just cherished it so much because I missed it with Ryan. I did get to have it with Leo, but I think this time it was the most beautiful “golden hour”—that’s what they call that first hour with mommy and baby right after birth. Max latched so perfectly too, it was just insane!

In the end, I would say this was my hardest labor for sure, in the sense that the level of pain I endured was insanely different and stronger than the other two, and with how fast it was escalating and how crazy hard the contractions were coming in. But on the back end, after I got the epidural it was almost completely smooth sailing, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Mom holding newborn baby son’s hand in hospital in Pasadena, CA, from the birth story of Max Gharibian, son of happy mom El Abad of Land of Mom

Max is such a good baby, too! When we got to the maternity room, even the nurses were saying what a good baby he was. He literally since then has just been eating, sleeping, and pooping and peeing. He wakes up to eat, I feed him and change him, and he goes right back to sleep. He's super chill like his papa, and interestingly, our first baby who has daddy's blood type.

So now it’s just about cherishing this time with him and honoring our journey together. Every labor is different, and I’ll stick to that. I’m so happy that there was no real traumatic experience for Max, and I’m just happy that he’s here and he’s healthy and he’s happy.

Yesterday was our first day home alone, just Max and I, and we are able to just relish in this time. This is what I’ve been waiting for with having a little newborn in the house again, and it’s also fortunate that my two toddlers are in preschool now, so I get a chance to really enjoy this time with baby Max. But then there is always the mom guilt... and I miss the older boys when they're at school all day. But, I try and cherish the evenings with them as much as I can.

Close-up of newborn baby son in hospital, from the birth story of Max Gharibian, son of happy mom El Abad of Land of Mom

Mamas, I’d love to learn your labor stories! Share a few sentences about your labor experience(s) in thr comments below.

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