If you missed part 1 of James’ birth story, get caught up here. Picking up where we left off. My contractions go from manageable to can’t-get-words-out real quick. And there was now almost no break between contractions. I knew that was the sign that it was time to get the epidural. I get the epidural and feel great. They check me and I’m still 4cm, so they go ahead and break my water. Shortly after this, I start to feel a little sharp pain in my right side. We try turning me to my right side to use gravity to get the medicine to that side. But with each contraction, that little spot where I feel pain gets bigger and bigger until my entire abdomen and back are now no longer numb. The nurse anesthetist comes back to give me a new dose of medicine. No change. People always tell you that epidurals don’t always work, but I never in a million years thought that would happen to me.
This is where I start to panic a little bit, because it seems like we’re not going to be able to get the epidural to work and I still had a long way to go in the labor. Crap. After pumping more doses of medicine into the epidural and still no change, the only option we have left is to re-do the epidural. Definitely the last thing I wanted to do, but we go ahead and do it. We put in the new epidural and it seems to be working! Yay! I get about 30 minutes of sleep (with the dreaded peanut ball between my legs) then I feel that little dot of pain again on my right side. No no no no no!! And just like before, with each contraction, the area where I feel pain gets bigger and bigger until I am feeling everything. At this point I am 8cm and the contractions are at the top of the pain scale with literally NO break in between contractions. We try doing more doses of medicine again, but still no change. I was definitely not mentally prepared to have to endure the worst of the contractions as I had always planned on having an epidural by then. We keep pumping me with more medicine and no change. At this point, all we can do is wait for me to get to 10cm so I can start pushing.
I honestly don’t even know how much time went by from when the second epidural stopped working to when I started pushing. The pain was definitely outside of the 1-10 scale. And with no break in between contractions, it was just constant. Any words I wanted to get out, I couldn’t. Moving any part of my body made the pain worse. There was one point where Branden put a hand on my leg to comfort me and it took all the strength I had to say “DO NOT TOUCH ME.” I can’t explain it, but the slightest touch somehow made the pain worse. So at this point I’m just taking it one second at a time and focusing on my breathing. My panic is also increasing because I’m realizing that I can’t even bear to have someone touch my leg- so how am I going to push this baby out through this pain?? Not to mention, I’ve had about 4 hours of sleep over the last 24+ hours, so will I even have the energy to push when it comes time? I always hear about women being so exhausted by the time they are pushing and having trouble getting the baby out. And with our guy having a 99th percentile head circumference, that was a definite concern of mine.
They eventually check me again and I am 10cm! Phew! Good to know all those contractions were doing something! And I’m not sure how, but the contractions somehow became less painful and actually had breaks in between. I remember learning that once you are complete, you contractions can change because they are no longer trying to open your cervix. So I was definitely thankful for enough relief from the pain to be able to push effectively! And one thing I didn’t mention is that my epidural actually was working from my pelvis down. So while I felt the full force of the contractions in my abdomen and back, my lady parts and legs were numb. Which was definitely appreciated when it came time to push!
Going into pushing, I was mentally prepared to have to spend 2, maybe even 3 hours, pushing. I knew that first babies take much longer to push out and with his big head, that may prolong it even further. He also started out sunny-side-up, which typically makes it difficult for babies to navigate the birth canal. So we start pushing and things are going well. It’s not too uncomfortable for me and my pushes seem to be effective. After about 20 minutes, the top of his head is poking out enough for me to reach down and feel! Then they call the calvary (OB attending and Pediatric team) in and we keep going. 10-15 minutes later, maybe an inch of the top of his head is out. Then with one more push, he literally flies out! Everyone in the room jumped a little bit as we were not expecting him to pop out like that! Like I said, I was expecting this to take hours, so I couldn’t believe he was wailing on my chest after just 30-40 minutes of pushing!
As I tried to catch my breath, I just sat there staring at his sweet face. I couldn’t believe there was a real baby inside me and now he is sitting on my chest! What a surreal moment! As much as I wanted to just soak up this moment, my thoughts couldn’t help but go to his heart issues as this is when we’d find out if there was an issue or not.
Now let’s back up to what I talked about at the very beginning. The potential heart issues they saw on the ultrasounds wouldn’t be able to be confirmed or denied until he was born. If there was a serious issue, there would be some signs right away. So while we were overjoyed to have him out, we were also anxiously waiting for the thumbs up that everything was ok.
We had asked prior to delivery what we should expect after he comes out. Will he be whisked away immediately? Or will we get some time with him before they take him away for tests? They said it will depend on how he looks when he comes out. The fact that he came out crying bought us a few moments with him on my chest before the pediatric team in the room had to evaluate him. So after a few moments to say hi, they took him over to the warmer to do a few tests that would determine if he needed to go to CHKD right away or if we could have an hour or so with him. They watched his heart rate, checked his pulse in various places and monitored his oxygen levels. We were able to breathe a sigh of relief when all the initial tests looked good! Still not out the woods yet, but we at least know that there is nothing severe going on that need immediate attention. So they said we can have him for 2 hours before he needs to go over to the CHKD NICU for further testing.
So they give him back to me and I get to feed him for the first time. It’s still so surreal that they come out with the instinct to feed right away! At this point, I’ve still got my legs up in the stirrups as I deliver the placenta and get stitched up. Apparently it’s pretty standard for a first-time mom to have a 2nd degree tear with their first vaginal delivery. So that took some time to be repaired. Oh, the joys of childbirth!
Meanwhile, our families have been out in the waiting room the entire time waiting for news. Did I mention that I delivered him at 3AM? So they all leapt out of bed and made their way to the hospital as soon as Branden told them I was starting to push. He is the first grandchild on both sides, after all. So after I was all put back together and legs were back down, we let them in. It was so sweet to see how excited they all were to meet him! We had about an hour for him to get passed around to everyone before he was taken to CHKD. Then I finally got some rest.
But now the every 2-3 hour feedings begin. So just a few hours after pushing this baby out, I am being wheeled over to CHKD to feed him. That was NOT a comfortable ride. But getting to hold him and feed him was all worth it. I’ll admit that seeing him in a level 3 NICU was a bit unsettling. Even though I knew he was probably the healthiest baby in there, it still makes you uneasy. At this point he hadn’t had the echo done yet, so we were still anxiously waiting to get those results.
After feeding him, we take another bumpy uncomfortable ride back to our room for a little nap before heading back over again around 10. At this point, they had done the echo and the cardiologist came by to evaluate him. As we sat there waiting for him to give us the results, an unexpected wave of emotion came over both of us. This was the moment we had been waiting for since we had that 28-week ultrasound. The moment we would find out if our boy had a serious heart defect or if he was completely healthy. I can’t help but tear up as I write this. After a few minutes that felt like hours, we got the news we wanted. He was fine. They still wanted to him to have a follow up echo the next week just to be safe, but everything appeared to be fine. He was even cleared to come back to our room with us!
We go back to our room and then get transferred to our postpartum room. Shortly after arriving there, our sweet boy is wheeled into the room to be with us. It felt like Christmas morning! At this point, the rest of our stay was pretty standard. Because of my ‘fall’ that brought me in in the first place and the fact that I lost a good amount of blood during delivery, I had a ‘fall risk’ sign on my door to add insult to injury! Our first night with him was great whereas the second night was rough. Apparently there is a 24-hour honeymoon period where they sleep great, but then after that, not so much. But we were still overjoyed that he was with us and healthy, sleep deprivation and all! Two days later, we were heading home and starting our new life as parents!
So how do I feel about everything now looking back? Honestly, even with the curveballs of the epidurals not working and having to work through a lot more pain than I was anticipating, I still look back on the labor experience fondly. Even right after he came out, I thought, I could do that again. I’m really glad that the labor went relatively smoothly and I was able to experience pushing out a baby. There’s nothing quite like it!
But what about the fact that all our friends were up in my business? Honestly, I kinda liked it! It made the experience much more intimate and comfortable. We were very well taken care of by all the staff since Branden is one of their own! And I was actually delivered by one of Branden’s co-residents who is a very dear friend of ours. The initial part of the pushing almost felt like a home birth because I had Branden on one leg, our nurse (also a friend and our age) one the other and our friend actually doing the delivery. It was so intimate and comfortable. But when he actually came out, it definitely wasn’t intimate as there were 10+ people in the room! Oy!
And how did Branden do being on the other side of the process? Like I said before, I was surprised at how much of a nervous wreck he was! He couldn’t take his eyes off the monitor watching the baby’s heart rate the whole time. We even had to mute the monitor, because he could tell when the heart rate when down just by listening to it. But it was so nice having him as I always felt in the know about what was going on. And I never felt worried or panicked because I knew that he would notice if something was wrong long before I would.
So there you have it! Our Sweet Baby James Allen’s birth story! If you made it to the end, then you are a trooper! And you probably got more TMI details than you really needed! I think that after hearing so many of Branden’s work stories, I’ve become desensitized to speaking candidly about medical things. But we are still overjoyed that our sweet boy is here and healthy, but also a little sad that he is growing so fast! We’re excited to have you all on this journey with us and you better believe there will be plenty of updates and baby cuteness being shared along the way!
To read more about my pregnancy, check out these posts!