Wow, hard to believe it’s been over a week already. Also, it’s amazing how a lack of sleep can make day and night run together and cause you to lose all track of time. I started this post several days ago, but it’s been hard to find time to write about Theo’s birth story, especially since I knew this would be a very long post. I know this is all way more detail than anyone would care to know, but since all along this blog has mostly been for me, I wanted to capture every detail for the sake of my own memorabilia.
If you just want the short version of the story: Theodore Claude Hoffman was born at 11:18 p.m. on Thursday, May 9, 2013 after 19 hours of labor that began with my water breaking early that morning. He was 4 days overdue. Theo came out screaming mad after 2 hours and 8 minutes of pushing and weighed in at 8 lbs, 3.6 oz. He was 20 inches in length. He has a full head of blond hair, blue eyes, adorable dimples and rolls of chub. We are in love.
The (very) long version is…
On Tuesday, May 7, I had hit my wall. I had been bumping against the wall for a couple weeks now, but by Tuesday I had officially hit it. Face first and hard. I was physically uncomfortable, but that wasn’t what bothered me the most. Even though I knew that going past our due date was completely normal, the psychological effect of being “overdue” was harder on me than I ever imagined. I think it was the lack of control I had over the biggest event in my life. And even though work wasn’t stressing me out as bad as some things were, I decided work was one thing I could control. So I went into work on Wednesday and told them that would be my last day in the office, that I would work from home Thursday and Friday, and if baby wasn’t here by then, that would be my last official day. Originally I had said I would work up until I went into labor, but the ambiguity of when that would be was causing me more stress at work and I wasn’t doing myself or my employer any favors by dragging it out longer than necessary. With that decided, I found that I was able to have a productive day at work on Wednesday, and left with a small sense of relief and closure. I went to bed Wednesday night with horrible abdominal cramps and occasional contractions, but didn’t think much of it, since I had been experiencing irregular contractions for a couple weeks now.
Thursday morning, I woke up around 4 a.m. to pee, which in itself wasn’t strange… except for the fact that Stewie was pacing the room when I woke up. I remembered hearing that dogs can often sense things before they happen and remember thinking, jokingly, that maybe Stewie was sensing I was about to go into labor. And then I laughed at myself. Went pee, got back into bed and started feeling crampy again. I sat up because of the discomfort and suddenly felt a huge gush, like I had peed the bed. No doubt about it, my water had broken. So I woke D up and he hopped in the shower while I called the doctor’s answering service and started packing up while waiting to get a call back. A few minutes later I heard from my doctor, who told me to take our time and get something to eat, take a shower, and plan on getting into the hospital around 6 a.m. I took a nice long shower, threw the sheets in the wash, ate some breakfast and then we loaded everything into the car. It felt surreal leaving the house.
On our way to the hospital we called my brother since he and his wife would be staying with our dogs, and I called my parents to let them know today was the day. I had several contractions during the 35 minute drive, but they weren’t coming at any regular intervals and were only mildly painful. We checked into triage and they hooked me up to the monitors and checked my cervix. I was 2.5 cm. Unfortunately, the baby’s heart rate kept dropping with contractions, so they monitored me for two hours, before deciding the baby was handling the contractions better. About this time, a doctor came by to introduce herself, and let me know she was an associate of my doctor’s and would be delivering our baby, as my doctor was just finishing up a 24-hour shift. I was disappointed that my own doctor would not be delivering me, but I already knew this was a possibility. Besides, from what I had heard, the nurses do most of the work, anyway, and the doctor essentially shows up at the end to catch the baby.
Since my contractions were still coming at irregular intervals, the doctor sent us to walk around the hospital and told us to check back in after two hours – or sooner if I was able to get my contractions coming every 5 minutes for an hour. After grabbing a bagel for me and a coffee for D, we started walking. Within about 20 minutes the contractions were coming between 2-5 minutes apart. After an hour of that, I wanted to check back into triage, but we decided to take a seat to see if they kept up their frequent intervals once we stopped walking. Unfortunately, sitting down caused them to slow to about 7-8 minutes apart, so after a quick rest, we were up and walking again. The contractions were progressively getting more painful. D was good about keeping me in good spirits and when a particularly strong one brought me to tears, he joked, “don’t worry, I’m sure that’s the worst one you’ll have.”
By 9:50 a.m. the contractions were coming one on top of the other, even while sitting, so we checked back into triage. They were happy with the progress, so admitted me and got us checked into our birthing suite. The room was really nice and spacious, which is a good thing, since little did we know, we were about to spend a looong time there. They checked my cervix again and I was only at 3 cm, which was a bit disappointing after all that contracting. Any movement would send me into a contraction, yet lying still on the bed made the contractions feel worse, so I had no choice but to keep moving, essentially having nonstop contractions. The nurse called it a “twitchy uterus.” I tried everything the birthing suite had to offer in an attempt to get comfortable – the shower, the birthing ball, leaning over the bed, the jacuzzi tub. I had wanted to hold off on the epidural for as long as possible for several reasons: first of all, I was terrified of the idea of being paralyzed to the bed, and knew that once I got the epidural, there was no turning back. I was also afraid of the epidural stalling labor. Finally, I was petrified of getting a giant needle stuck in my back and any possible complications that could arise from that. But by 1 p.m., after 4 and a half hours of active labor and little rest, I had reached my breaking point. I wanted the epidural and I needed it now.
The anesthesiologist arrived relatively quickly – within about 10 minutes – but those 10 minutes were pure agony. Remember, my contractions were coming right on top of each other, so I had to endure about 8-10 more of them while we waited, with each one progressively worst than the last. Worst pain I’d ever felt in my life. I honestly have no idea how women do this naturally. While we were waiting for the anesthesiologist, the nurse explained the procedure and warned me that I’d have to sit perfectly still while the doctor was inserting the needle into my spine. She said it was very likely I would have a contraction during the procedure and that it was imperative that I didn’t move. We decided to take the next couple contractions to practice holding perfectly still. It was impossible, which terrified me, but what other choice did I have? Fortunately, the anesthesiologist was amazing. He was able to prep the site during a particularly painful contraction and had the needle ready to go the second it subsided. He worked quickly, and by the time the next contraction peaked, I was all done and taped up. I could have kissed him. And the needle wasn’t even that painful. I’d had worse IV stabs and blood draws that day alone. The nurse warned me that it could take up to 15 minutes to take effect, but after only 5 minutes I suddenly realized I hadn’t felt a contraction in a while. Worried that I had stopped contracting, I asked the nurse. She pointed to the monitor and told me I had just had a monster one. I hadn’t felt a thing!
From that point on, the entire vibe of the room changed. My legs felt heavy and fuzzy, and I suddenly realized just how exhausted I was. The nurses dimmed the lights, D made some phone calls and took a nap, and I alternated between snoozing, chatting with the nurses and updating friends via text. I also talked to my parents and gave them an update. I remember at this point thinking how much I loved epidurals. They checked my cervix again and told me I was at a 5 and 75% effaced.
Unfortunately, after a few hours on the epidural, the nurses were concerned with my lack of progression. My contractions had slowed (as I had feared they might), and they were becoming weaker and slower. I was disappointed when the nurse suggested starting a Pitocin drip. I was fearing an epidural-Pitocin domino effect — where the epi slows contractions, which needs Pitocin to pick them up again, which makes contractions stronger and requires more epidural to relieve the pain, which leads to more Pitocin… eventually this can lead to “failure to progress,” resulting in a C-section, which I so desperately wanted to avoid. The nurse assured me they would start with the lowest dose possible, though, so I agreed. I’m not one to argue with medical professionals, though the fear was definitely in the back of my mind. Well, after an hour or so on the Pitocin, I was feeling contractions again, so I did end up upping my epidural. This caused my right leg to go completely dead. While I could wiggle the toes on my left foot, and could still move my leg just a little bit, my right leg was completely paralyzed. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to push effectively with the dead weight on my right side. A couple hours later they had to up my Pitocin yet again, and then I could feel the contractions again. But between the fear of the domino effect and the dead leg (which was honestly worse than being able to feel the contractions through the epi), I decided to just deal with it.
In addition to feeling contractions again and dealing with dead leg, we were also starting to get concerned with something a little more serious: infection. It had now been 12 hours since my water had broken, and the nurse had been periodically taking my temperature to make sure I wasn’t developing a fever. Well, at one point, my temperature was a little over 100, which was concerning. Especially since I had been given acetaminophen (Tylenol) intravenously an hour earlier for a headache. Since acetaminophen is a fever reducer, who knows how much higher it would have been without the acetaminophen. They drew some blood and there was some talk about giving me antibiotics, but to this day I’m still not sure what ever came of that. No one ever seemed to have an answer, though both the baby and I were very closely monitored throughout our stay at the hospital for signs of sepsis (thankfully we passed and were released on time).
By now it was around 5 p.m., and I was feeling incredibly antsy. The nurse checked my cervix and told me I was around 8-9 centimeters. Knowing I was so close (or so I thought) to finally meeting my baby made me really impatient. The nurse told me we would probably get to start pushing around 6:30. Well, 6:30 came and went, and I was still around 9 cm. They told me we’d push around 7:30. That came and went, and I was ready to lose my mind. About this time, the nurse’s shift change happened, and we had to say goodbye to the nurse and nursing student who had been tending to me all day. Before the nurse left, she gave me a pep talk about poop. She said that so many women irrationally fear pooping during delivery, but that if I’m pushing correctly, I WILL poop. She said everyone poops during delivery, and if they claim they didn’t, they are either lying or don’t realize they did. That or they weren’t pushing correctly. Her final words to me before she left were something like, “Remember, I want you to poop. Don’t fear the poop.”
Finally around 8:00, they checked me and I was 10 cm. They wanted me to “labor down” for an hour (let the contractions move the baby down without pushing to conserve energy), and then we would start pushing at 9. The new nurse explained the pushing process while we labored down, and I was surprised to learn it would just be the three of us in the room – the nurse, D and me. For some reason I always pictured there being multiple medical staff in the room and a generally more chaotic vibe. But the lights were still dim, and it was quiet and calm in there. She started talking about D holding one leg while she held the other, and D almost passed out just talking about it. I explained to her that he was really squeamish and she said it was no problem. I could labor on my side and we’d just hold one leg up. It sounded odd to me (I always pictured pushing in a semi-sitting up position), but this actually worked out well, since my right leg was still totally dead. I would lay on my right side so I wouldn’t have to move that leg, and then I would pull my left knee toward my chest and with my hand, while she simultaneously pushed on my foot. Around 9:10 we were ready to start and when she told me to push, it felt like this weird out-of-body experience. We were actually doing this, and yet it was nothing like I imagined it would be or like you see in the movies. There was no screaming, no cursing D for getting me into this mess… well, at least not coming from our room. There was a natural birth going on next door and we had just listened to some woman scream her head off for the past hour. I felt bad, but D and I couldn’t help giggling about it. Now that was straight out of the movies! Dead leg aside, I was sooo glad I had gotten an epidural.
The other thing about pushing that I hadn’t anticipated was that it takes a really long time! For over 2 hours I pushed three times with every contraction, with about a minute of rest in between. It was incredibly exhausting, but I was working as hard as I possibly could. I wanted this baby out already! I kept remembering what the nurse had said about not “fearing the poop” and I really do think it helped me to push effectively and without inhibition. To this day I have no idea whether I did or not, but the point is that I didn’t care. Not one bit. Funny how of all the things that were going through my head during this time pushing, the one that stands out the most for me is just how hungry I was. I hadn’t been allowed to eat anything since about 8 a.m. that morning and I was working harder than I’d ever worked in my life. I felt so weak. Then again, I can see why they don’t want you to eat, because I ended up throwing up during my first several pushes (between pooping and puking, giving birth really isn’t very glamorous). The nurse said the vomiting is very common, and I’m glad there was nothing in my stomach besides water to throw up.
The pushing was beyond exhausting. The nurse was very encouraging – almost too encouraging, though. With every push, she made it sound like we were almost there. I felt like this baby would never come out. Finally, I could feel that the baby was crowning. Even with the epidural, I felt like I had a bowling ball between my legs, and could feel what’s known as the “ring of fire” as the baby’s head was coming out. Aaaand… it was at that point where the nurse told me to stop pushing so she could call the doctor in. Wait, WHAT?! Let me tell you something about giving birth: when the baby is right there, you can’t not push. It was torture.
The doctor arrived about 5 minutes later, and then spent an additional 5 minutes putting on what looked like a hazmat suit. Finally she was ready, and about three pushes later, Theo was born. He came out screaming mad – my first vision of him was his face coming toward me as the nurse handed him to me with his mouth wide open, screaming his head off, lower lip quivering. I love that lower lip quiver and it makes it hard to get frustrated with him when he cries because it is just so darn cute. Despite D’s squeamishness with the birth, he was right there with the camera as soon as Theo was out. One thing we both noticed was that he was not as gross looking as some babies are when they are first born. Yeah, yeah, I know. All parents probably think that. But really, despite some massive cone head from being in the birth canal for so long, he was otherwise a very cute baby right from the start. His skin was pink, not gray, and he wasn’t covered in vernix like many babies are. The nurse put him on my chest, skin-to-skin, where we stayed for the first hour of his life. They were able to clean him off while he was on my chest, and we got to try breastfeeding (wasn’t terribly successful, though we’re doing great now). I was so enamored with him that I was only vaguely aware some time later that the doctor was stitching me up. I asked her if I tore badly and she said it was a second degree tear in two places, along with some “abrasions” that wouldn’t need stitches but might cause me some pain. D and I looked down at Theo’s already long nails and D surmised that he was probably clawing his way out (ha). About this point I realized that I hadn’t even noticed that I had delivered the placenta. For some reason I had pictured that feeling like a second birth, but I hadn’t even noticed it happening. After an hour of snuggling our new baby, they took him to the other side of the room to take his measurements and give him his first vaccines.
After they returned him to me, we spent another hour snuggling him, and then they transferred us to our postpartum room. It was significantly smaller than our birthing suite, but we were so exhausted that we didn’t care. All we wanted to do was get some sleep. Of course, we would soon learn that Theo had other plans for us that night…
Whew! That was a marathon of a post so I’ll cut it off there. I’ll plan to write another post soon recapping our first week. To be continued…