The Birth of Bert: Part 1

Friday, August 16, 2019

Sitting down to write Bert's birth story is a funny exercise because some of it I remember in great detail, while other parts of it I don't remember well at all. So I guess I'll preface this by saying that all these things happened -- plus more things I don't remember I'm sure -- on some sort of timeline in some sort of order over the days of August 3 and 4, 2019.

Bert was due to arrive Saturday, August 10. At my most recent doctor's appointment the week of July 29, I was 1 cm. dilated and there was no effacement at all. I hadn't had any contractions, Braxton-Hicks or real. After the midwife left the room after that appointment, Joe said, "He's going to take his sweet time, isn't he?"

It seemed like it.

I mean, I was only 38 weeks at that time, but it's August in Georgia, his room and all his things were ready, and at that point we were just basically waiting around. My mom thought this was all pretty funny as I was 13 days late and made her wait around a REALLY long time during July 1984.

On Saturday, August 3, Joe and I decided to take a late morning trip to Home Depot. I wanted some larger pots for these succulents I've been growing (Side note: what?! I have never gotten anything to grow before, but these things are monsters! I basically got them to grow through general neglect, which makes me feel really good about my chances at motherhood!) as well as some other around-the-house things like an extension cord and potting soil. We also decided to look at some tile for a future fireplace re-tiling as well as some options for outdoor landscaping, which our house desperately needs.

Right around noon we were wandering the tile aisle at Home Depot*, and I felt a little trickle of something. (I guess at the beginning of this I should have written some sort of warning about the graphic nature of the content, but then again who is reading a birth story and doesn't expect that sort of thing?) I didn't pay much attention, as this was not a totally unusual occurrence, although this time it did feel a little different. I mean, I felt good, I wasn't in any pain, I was walking around Home Depot, and I had been told in pregnancy and childbirth class that, contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies, women's water spontaneously breaking only happens in 10-15% of cases, and it's not always that big gush you see from Hollywood either. Basically, the odds were against my water having broken, I had no other clues or signs I might be in labor, and I did not want to be that first-time mom alarmist who rushes to the hospital only to do the walk of shame back to the car. I will say, though, that this trickle kept going. Not non-stop, but pretty frequently. Again, though, I felt good, I had no other clues or signs, the statistics, blah blah. Joe and I checked out and took our stuff to our car. We then decided to go to another local nursery to check out more options for landscaping. We drove about 10 minutes to the other store, walked in, and I immediately told Joe I needed to go to the bathroom. I went in, assessed the situation, and decided we really needed to go home. I found Joe, told him we needed to go home, and we left, making us the most awkward shoppers ever to visit the Pike Nursery. I'm not sure we can ever go back.

Needless to say, Joe and I were both not sure what was going on at this point. Joe kept asking me if I thought my water had broken, and I was like -- dude, I don't know. It's never happened to me before! At that point, I was also still not in any pain. Being the person I am, I hustled into the shower because I hadn't showered that day, and I was not about to go deliver a baby with dirty hair. I didn’t want to feel gross. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I also want to say that I changed my nail polish because the stuff I had on was slightly chippy and I had planned to change it that day anyways. And, again, being the person I am, I was not about to go deliver a baby with chippy nail polish. I know myself. (Colleen -- for some reason I am picturing your face when you are reading this, and it's cracking me up!) When I got out of the shower, I did exactly what my childbirth class book told me to do if I thought my water had broken. At a certain point in all of this, Joe actually witnessed some of it leak onto the floor, and at that point, he's like CALL THE DOCTORS' OFFICE NOW!

So I did. I called the after-hours number and told the service what was going on, and the lady who took my call said she'd alert the midwife on call and have her call me. She also told me if the midwife hadn’t called me back in 30 minutes to call again. I had 30 minutes? Cool, because I could re-do my nail polish in that time! (Shout out to ColorStreet!) After 35 minutes passed without a call, I called the service back, and within 10 minutes I heard from the midwife. (She had apparently just come out of doing a delivery.) I told her what had happened over what timeline, and she told me it was time to go to the hospital. In the middle of all of this, Joe was madly trying to take our honeymoon and summer vacation pics off our camera to free up space for the baby, which, again we had planned to do that day.

Joe and I change our clothes (him in a Michigan t-shirt and me in my West Virginia Strong t-shirt because, yes), grab our pre-packed bags (something we did prepare correctly), made sure our dogs had food and water, and headed to the hospital, which is about a 30-minute drive from our house. At this point, I'm still doing fine and not really feeling too much pain. I try and call my mom, who doesn't answer her phone, which makes me laugh because is the second time I had called her recently and she didn't answer, which made me realize my family really had no sense of urgency about my imminent labor. I then try my dad, who answers. My parents had been planning to find out when I was in labor and then drive down to Atlanta, about an 8-hour drive from where they live in Huntington, West Virginia. When I tell my dad what is happening -- at this point what we think is happening -- Dad informs me that he and my mom are in Parkersburg at a family reunion. Parkersburg is about two hours north of Huntington, adding extra time on to their drive. There is clearly no one in this family -- including me -- who thought Bert was coming on time, let alone early. I'm still feeling good, although I'm starting to have very mild contractions. At this point, it's around 3 p.m.

Joe and I got to the hospital and went in and registered. At first there was a misunderstanding because the nurses thought I was due September 10, so they put me in Antepartum. While I was in the bathroom, I heard Joe tell the nurse I was 39 weeks, due August 10, so when I got back into the room the nurse had to wheel me over to labor and delivery. Hilariously, Joe and I ended up in the exact same L&D room we had toured only the week before. (Nothing like doing things last minute! There was a lady on that tour who wasn't due till February, and I'm like -- oh, I'm due in two weeks. Yeesh.) A nurse came in and tested to see if my water had broken, which indeed it had. No walk of shame for me! She also took my medical history. When I told her about my endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy, she told me her daughter had the exact same medical condition (hyperhidrosis), but they'd never heard of the surgery, so I told her I'd be happy to talk to her daughter at some point, proving there's no end to the amount of people who suffer from hyperhidrosis and think there's nothing that can help them. Eventually I got put on an IV, saw the midwife on duty, Mary Anne, and just kind of hung out. Joe and I did a few laps around the floor and at that point my contractions were getting worse. Still not unbearable, but definitely worse. Around 7 p.m. the first nurse left, and I was introduced to my night nurse, Cheryl, whom I loved. She was so great! Around 8 p.m. Mary Anne came back and told me that my body hadn't progressed as much as they were hoping it would -- at this point my water had been broken for 8 hours -- and they needed to start me on Pitocin. I was hoping not to have this happen, as I knew my mom had had to have it several times, and it's really no fun, but all along my birth plan has been to have a baby, so whatever was best for him and for me is what I was happy to do. Shortly after the Pitocin was started my contractions increased significantly. If you've had them before I don't need to describe how painful they are, and if you haven't had them before there's nothing I can say to describe how painful they are. All I could really do was breathe and stare at the ceiling while repeating uplifting things to myself. Not to be too sanctimonious, as I was definitely not in a place where I was uniting my suffering with Christ on the cross or anything -- it was more like me repeating over and over in my head, "This is bullshit" (sorry for the language, Mom) in the voice Joe uses to narrate the thoughts of Jane Austen, hilarious -- but I did realize that the Divine Mercy Chaplet refrain has the same amount of syllables -- 10 -- in the words before the comma and after, so it was really easy to repeat that as I tried to breathe since it's easy to remember and so even. So if you're picturing me doing that while simultaneously saying "This is bullshit" (sorry for the language, Mom) in my head, you'll about get it.

At some point, I really don't remember when but it had to have been right around the time I met Cheryl since Mary Anne was also getting off shift around that time, Mary Anne came and asked me if I wanted my epidural. I was in a lot of pain, but I was also surviving, so I asked her what she thought. At that point, Mary Anne gave me the following words of wisdom: This is only going to get harder. Appreciating her frankness, I opt in for the epidural right away. Luckily, the anesthesiologist was not far away, so he came pretty quickly. They made Joe sit down -- they wouldn't let him stand -- while I got my epidural. I was worried about the pain, but I agree with others who have said that a. labor pains are far worse and b. the only part that really hurts is the injection they give you to numb you, which really wasn't that bad. Joe told me later he's glad it wasn't that bad because he wouldn't have believed it seeing the size of the needle that went in my back. No thanks, didn't need to see that.

Labor went on for a while, but I didn't really feel too much thanks to the epidural. Joe and I tried to get some sleep, but we probably only got about 2-3 hours worth. My parents made it to Atlanta sometime around 2 a.m. My sisters Erin and Emma made it at some point, too. We met the new midwife, Barbara, sometime too. What ended up happening in the meantime was the nurses discovered that Bert's heart rate kept dropping if I was not lying in a specific position. He could not tolerate me on my back at all, and he favored me lying on my right side only. The nurses propped me up with pillows in certain areas to keep his heart rate up as much as possible. Needless to say, it was incredibly awkward and also painful as I didn't have the ability to decide how I'd like to lay there, much less sit up. They also made me wear an oxygen mask, which I didn't really love either. I spiked a fever of 100.1 overnight and had to be given IV Tylenol. Around 7 a.m. Cheryl left, which was really sad because I really liked her, and she introduced to me my new nurse, Ashley. Ashley and I had a really awkward first interaction, and at that point I was crying because a. I basically haven't slept in 24 hours, b. I haven't eaten in 12 hours, c. I'm not allowed to have water any more, and I have a really big fear of being thirsty, d. I'm scared and exhausted, and e. Ashley is now my delivery nurse. My epidural also was wearing off and I was in need of some help. Luckily, Ashley and I went on to work it out, and I'll tell you more about her later as she was a HUGE factor in the actual delivery process.

The day progressed until about, say, 1:00 p.m.-ish when I was (still) lying on my side, it was just Joe and me in the room, and I looked at him and was basically like I CANNOT DO THIS ANYMORE. Around that time, I felt this super strong urge to push, I was in a ton of pain, and I sent Joe out to find a nurse. I feel like they took their sweet time, but they probably didn't, and also I had been told that most first-timers push for 3 hours or so, so no one thinks delivery is imminent. Ashley also told me to get to a mental place where it might take a long time and there also would likely be tearing, and I appreciated her honesty. They had already prepped the room for delivery, so they were good to go. Ashley came in and checked me and told me that my cervix is gone, and it was about time. She taught me how to push, and we practiced a few times. Then she told me to stop and resist any urge to push. She gathered more nurses, Barbara the midwife, and the NICU team (standard practice at this hospital). They adjusted me where I needed to go, told Joe what to do, and everyone got into place. The next contraction happened, I took a breath and closed my eyes, and did what Ashley taught me to do. I heard Ashley's voice counting for me and also telling me to push harder and that I was doing a great job. At some point someone asked me if I though I could do this on my side. Apparently Bert's heart still couldn't take my lying on my back, even for delivery, so they turned me to my right side. Honestly, I felt like this was a bit easier, as one my legs was on the bed, so I didn't have to worry about pushing too much with my legs and not enough in the right spot. The hardest part of all of this (um, other than pushing a baby out) was when they went to flip me to my left side. For some reason, that was almost unbearable. But I did it, I kept pushing on my left side, Joe was there encouraging me, and I kept hearing Ashley's voice counting and telling me what a great job I was doing.

Finally, after 26 hours of labor and 32 minutes of pushing (I found out later), Robert David was born.  He is named after two of his great-grandfathers. Even if I hadn't heard everyone exclaim when he arrived, I'd have known it as my pain level went from 10 to 1 in about one second. I've never felt anything like it. I found out later, too, that everyone was super impressed I only had to push for 32 minutes. I kept telling people that there was no way I could have pushed for 3 hours. I feel like not only is that physically exhausting, but it would have to be mentally and emotionally defeating as well. God bless you if you've had to push for that long!

They put Bert on me, and basically I stared at him like -- Huh. Here is a baby. Haha. The hospital we delivered at has something called "Golden Hour" where, if there is not anything really wrong with the baby upon birth, they allow mom, dad, and baby to spend some alone time together before they weigh and measure the baby and clean him off. So Joe and I sat there with Bert for about an hour. We later found out he was 8 lbs. 6 oz. and measured an astounding 21.5" long. We also found out he has really big hands and feet, so we are happy to note he will have his pick of positions on his football team! (QB, wide receiver, kicker -- who knows?!) He was born Sunday, August 4 at 2:40 p.m., 6 days before his due date. He latched really well and began breastfeeding almost immediately, which should have been a huge indication of what a big eater he has turned out to be.

A note on Ashley: although Bert's birth certificate will list Barbara the midwife as the person who delivered Bert (and she was GREAT), in my mind it was Ashley who really delivered him. She taught me to push, she held my leg, and it was her voice I kept hearing throughout the whole process. After Golden Hour, I told Ashley how much I appreciated having her there, and she told me how much she loves her job. I also told her for months now I had been praying for good nurses since they are so important in the L&D process and basically run the world. I will never forget Ashley.

So that is the story of Bert! ... Part 1. Bert has a much bigger story that starts at the moment of his birth, but I will save that for another day. For now, this is the happy story of how we met Bert face to face.

EDIT: One of the biggest things I remember from labor is how thirsty I was. You can't drink water -- only ice chips -- after an epidural. I have a HUGE fear of being thirsty, and I told Joe so many times that I would kill for a drink of water. I said something to my mom about getting water just as soon as Bert was born, and she told me I probably wouldn't even think of it because I'd be so distracted after birth. A couple of minutes after Bert was born and they put him on my chest, I said to the midwife, "This sounds really selfish, but can I have my water now?" It was the best drink of water of my life!

*I regret not having made a bigger deal of my water breaking at Home Depot. I feel as though I could have at least gotten a gift card out of that. So don't make the same mistake I made! 

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