I had every intention of sitting down to write out James’ birth story a week, maybe two weeks, after he was born. Yeah, no. I’ll say that the inability to get things done with a newborn is one of the things I definitely underestimated! But I can’t complain as baby snuggles beat work and chores any day! So, on to the birth story!
To understand some of the things that transpired in his birth story I first need to back up a bit. We did an ultrasound at 28 weeks so we could get that cute 3D picture of his little squishy face! But while we were there, we did a quick scan over all the anatomy too, just to make sure all was well. When we did this, they saw some things in his heart that were a little suspicious. I can’t pretend to understand the specifics of what they saw, but I do know that the right side of his heart was a good deal larger than the left and they weren’t exactly sure why. It’s hard to see all the intricacies of the baby’s heart while in the womb and there are some things that will change with his heart once he is born and starts breathing. So basically there was a slight suspicion that something could be wrong, but they couldn’t confirm or deny at that point.
So we went ahead and scheduled a few more ultrasounds just to keep an eye on it and see if anything changed. As you can imagine, this put a bit of a black cloud over the third trimester of my pregnancy. While we knew the suspicion was very low and likely all was fine, you still can’t unring that bell. We actually didn’t even tell anyone for a while because we didn’t want to cause a panic over something that could end up being nothing. I’ll admit that this did steal some of the joy that we had about his arrival. Instead of just being full of pure excitement, there was also anxiety and fear over what the outcome would be. Would this be something that would require surgery? Will this affect him throughout his life? Will he be able to play sports? Or will it just be nothing? All these questions wouldn’t be able to be answered for sure until he was born.
So we did a few more ultrasounds after that to keep an eye on things and nothing really changed. They still saw the same thing and had the same level of suspicion. The plan was that he would just need to have an echo (ultrasound of the heart) done at some point after he was born to see how everything looked. But after an ultrasound at 37 weeks, the scans were reviewed by the MFM (high-risk obstetrician) and they said that while the suspicion was still very low, they suggest that we deliver at Norfolk General as it attached to CHKD (Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters) and he could get the care he needed right away, should there be an issue.
Now let me explain the significance of this suggestion. First, we had planned to deliver at a low-risk hospital near our house and had been seeing the same OB the whole pregnancy that would be our doctor. So to be told in the 11th hour that we should switch hospitals and doctors did not sit well with my Type-A planner self. And second, Norfolk General is where Branden works. Meaning we would know EVERYONE that would be treating us there. All the doctors, nurses- everyone. (In case you’re new to following me, my husband is an OB resident at Norfolk General) These are people that we hang out with on a regular basis outside of work and now they would be delivering my baby… so much for privacy! But there was no real reason not to make the switch as it was the safest thing to do, so we went ahead and switched care to EVMS.
It was Tuesday, December 18th, when I had my appointment at EVMS to officially transfer my care there. Little did we know that we would be back later that day to actually have the baby!
It was that afternoon that I was at home attempting to tie up loose ends around the house and in my business before baby and Christmas. I was sitting on a yoga ball (I found it more comfortable than the couch sometimes towards the end of the pregnancy) at the coffee table wrapping Christmas presents. I leaned forward to grab something off the table, just barely lifting my butt off the ball, not realizing that it rolled away. So when I came back to sit on it, it wasn’t there. So I ‘fell’ to the floor. It wasn’t a hard fall. I caught myself and was able to turn to the side slightly, but still a ‘fall’. When Branden got home a few hours later, I told him about it, almost joking, as I didn’t think it was a big deal. He gave me a deer in headlights look and said “Uhhh what??” As on OB, he knows what can happen when a pregnant woman falls; or really any sort of trauma. And while I knew it was a very insignificant fall, he wasn’t there to see it so he couldn’t rest easy assuming it was as insignificant as I described. So he suggested that we just go into the hospital and do an NST (Non Stress Test) just to be safe. I rolled my eyes and agreed. I just grabbed my purse (not even sure if I was wearing a bra?) and left all the things I was working on (presents, dinner, cleaning, etc) undone for me to do when we got back that night.
On the way in, Branden tells me that unless James looks perfect on the monitor during the test, they will likely suggest that we induce tonight. Now I’m the deer in headlights. Even with him telling me that, I was pretty confident that it would all look fine and we’d be coming home right after. So we get to the hospital and have to endure the embarrassment of telling everyone that I ‘fell’ off a yoga ball.
We get James on the monitor and watch and wait. I’ll also note that this was when I saw the first glimpse of what our dynamic would be like during labor. Branden was a nervous wreck. Couldn’t stay seated, couldn’t take his eyes off the monitor and was making a lot of grimacing faces. While I was the calm one asking him to chill out. Definitely the opposite of what I thought our dynamic would be. But the 20 minutes went by and all looked good except for one little dip in his heart rate towards the end. It was very subtle, but enough for them to suggest that we go ahead and induce. Um, wait, what?!? Oh boy. Was not ready for that. This was another thing my Type A self was NOT ready for. I had all these lists of things I wanted to do right before going into the hospital. Shower, eat, pack up all the last minute items, clean the house, etc. Instead, I was stuck in the hospital while the house was a disaster, I hadn’t showered in days, our bags weren’t packed and we didn’t even have a plan for what to do with the dogs!
In case you’re wondering why they suggested we induce over something so ‘insignificant’, the rationale is basically that when you are term (past 37 weeks), there is almost no risk of prematurity (provided he’s been growing as he should be). So the risk of my going home and him passing in the womb is greater than any risk associated with inducing at 38 weeks. So we got the show on the road!
I sent Branden home to gather all the things we needed and ‘activated’ our family members for their help. It was quite a hoot trying to explain to Branden over the phone all the things he needed to gather. Especially when I tried to get him to pack my makeup bag. “Grab the full fluffy brush with a flat top and black handle.” I ended up having to put blush on with an eye shadow brush… he still doesn’t understand why that’s a problem.
We also had Branden’s dad and sister come over to the house to gather a few more things we needed, assemble the baby items that we didn’t get to (bassinet, pack n play, etc) and take the dogs to my parents house. Once Branden got back to the hospital, I took a shower, had dinner and then got things started!
At this point it’s about 10:30 at night. They check me and I’m 1.5cm dilated and 50% effaced. Not too bad! They put a medicine in vaginally called Cervadil that stays in overnight and should help ripen my cervix further so we can start pitocin the next morning. They also gave me an Ambien to help me sleep. But when they came in to check on me at 2AM, I was still wide awake. No surprise there. They give me some Benadryl and I catch a few ZZZs until about 6AM.
In the morning I started having some contractions with a little bit of discomfort. Yay! The only time in your life where you’re excited to be pain. They decide to let me have one last big meal since everything was looking good and it would likely be a while before I deliver. I send Branden down to the cafeteria and basically tell him to get everything.
Around 1030, they take the Cervadil out and check me. Only 2cm. Womp womp. To help my cervix along, they placed an old fashion foley balloon (OFFB as they called it) just inside my cervix, between it and James’ head. This balloon helps to stimulate the cervix to open by placing pressure on it. It’s basically a urinary catheter were the end of it is filled with water to create a balloon (about the size of a ping pong ball). Then the catheter tubing is pulled to tension and taped to the side of your leg. Boy, that did not feel good. They also started the pitocin at this time, so between the contractions ramping up and the discomfort of the balloon, the pain went from a 2 to a 7 real quick. I really didn’t want to get an epidural yet as it was still very early. So they offer me Nubain (an IV narcotic medication) which would take the edge off to get over this hump. And that it did!
Around 1245, the balloon came out and I was 4cm. Contractions were more regular now and pain was more manageable without meds. So at this point we just keep upping the pitocin and I hang on as long as I can before getting an epidural. Although I was pretty tired at this point, I wanted to stay awake and mobile until I got an epidural as I knew that being out of bed should help things progress. So I figured I would catch up on sleep after getting the epidural. They even let me have a yoga ball to sit on for a few hours! I’m happy to say that I didn’t fall off this one!
So now we’re just hanging out and waiting. Contractions get stronger and more frequent, but still manageable. Our moms come by around 5 to say hi. Around this time, I started to lose my steady contractions, so around 6, they really crank up the pitocin to get things moving. And boy, did it get things moving. This is where things start to get crazy, plus a curveball that I was not ready for.
To hear the rest of the story, check out Part 2!
Check out these posts to read more about my pregnancy!