Glancing down at Sebastian, now 6 days old, I am overwhelmed by tenderness. He entered our lives just under a week ago, making a big entrance into the world. As I think about how to begin his birth story, it’s clear to me that it’s more than just Sebastian’s story – it’s mine, it’s his father’s, it’s our family’s. His birth brought a change to our family, expanding our circle of love, inviting us to redefine what it means to be our family.
This is how I started Sebastian’s birth story 5 weeks ago. He is now 7 weeks old and it feels as though time has simultaneously crept by (during those sleepless nights) and rushed past (those first coos and smiles already?). So many of my readers have been a part of our journey over the past two months, especially as you’ve joined our 4th Time Around Baby Shower on the blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I can’t thank you enough for your kind words, advice, stories, and comrade!
Tonight, as our Baby Shower comes to a close, I want to end the party by finishing baby’s birth story.
I always wondered what it would be like to go into labor at home, start counting contractions, and have them gradually grow closer together and more intense. What would it be like to double check my hospital bag, text my husband to head on home, and prepare my kids to potentially spend the night with friends? Would it be exhilarating or frightening to get in the car with a small sense of urgency?
On October 6th, I answered these questions for myself as I started labor with my 4th child. My due date was approaching and my energy levels diminished every afternoon, so I decided to run some errands. I spent the morning walking various stores, including Costco, and arrived home exhausted. I managed to relax mid afternoon until the time came to pick my older children up from school at 3 pm. Once we arrived home, things started to get interesting.
These contractions did not feel like practice or braxton hicks. They came, they continued in their intensity, and they did not subside when I changed positions. I pulled out my contraction app on my phone and started timing them. My doctor advised me to start preparing to come in when things transitioned to 5 5 5 and especially 3 3 3. I called the nurse, who recommended I keep timing them and come in when it felt right. My contractions were consistently coming three minutes apart, so I let my husband know he should plan to come home and alerted our overnight babysitter.
Tim arrived and we drove the kids to our friend’s home, each bump on the back roads increasingly uncomfortable. We said our goodbyes and headed to the hospital, oddly anxious for the fourth time around. The walk from the parking garage to the maternity wing proved daunting, so Tim pushed me in a wheelchair. I felt a bit silly, until the contractions hit. The nurses pulled my chart out as I arrived, ready for me post phone call.
The nurse starting monitoring me and my contractions came on strong, but grew inconsistent. Then the nurses had trouble finding baby’s heartbeat. I was at a teaching hospital, so a doctor and resident came in, both checking me. One thought maybe dialated to 3 and the other 6. My cervix was very soft, apparently. The nurse suspected I was dehydrated and that was why my contractions were becoming irregular. I dreaded the idea that I would be picking my kids up and heading home at this point.
They decided to have me stand up and walk around and this is when things got really interesting. I walked a couple of steps and immediately vomited into the nearby trash can several times, then said, “I feel like pushing.” The nurse immediately had me sit down and the doctors came in again to check me – now I was at an 8. They called my doctor and it seemed that I would be having the baby very soon, with no time for an epidural (eek!).
At this point, I’d like to say that people have advised me that being induced causes quicker, more rapidly intense and painful contractions. This was not my experience. Once in labor naturally, contractions came on intensely and rapidly. My doctor came smiling, checked me, and things seemed good to go. I felt the build up and expected baby to arrive anytime soon. In fact, I reached the point in labor for the first time in four labors where I turned to my husband and declared, “I don’t think I can do this!”
I couldn’t move around much because a nurse had to hold the monitoring belt on my belly to find baby’s heartbeat the whole time, which proved incredibly irritating and uncomfortable. Baby wasn’t having issues, but they wanted to keep him on the monitor. Then I was checked again (double for students) and things got interesting – why wasn’t the baby moving down? The head of the OB department was called in to check (with another student – another double check while enduring intense contractions) and I almost told her she couldn’t check me. They did an ultrasound and discovered that my baby who used to be transverse was now head down, but face forward. He had his chin at an awkward angle, making it difficult to move down.
This led to lots of careful consultations and calling in more doctors. At this point, we decided to wait on baby and another expert to weigh in. I just longed for pain relief. A nurse finally rallied for me and I received an epidural. I will always be grateful for this – I had to face difficult news ahead and this helped me do so with a clear head and improved disposition.
Ultimately, the expert came in and determined that baby was very unlikely to turn or make his way down on his own. I knew her from prenatal care delivered this news and recommended a c-section. We didn’t want to hear this news, but felt like it was the right choice and we wanted to move forward before things became more complicated for baby. They joked with me that they were keeping my case quiet in the hallways because every student would want to participate if they heard about baby’s rare position.
I felt peace with this decision, but also experienced the pain of letting go of my expectations of that movie style birth. Having a c-section is a totally surreal experience and one of the strangest of my life. You lie there and feel someone tugging at you, knowing they are pulling at your insides. I remember feeling the final tug, knowing my baby arrived, and hearing him cry. I desperately wanted to see him and to hold him, my heart constricting with the desire to simply see my baby.
After a few minutes, my husband brought baby over with the doctor and held him to my face, where he stopped crying for a moment as we touched. We took a few photos and I encouraged my husband to go with baby while they stitched me up. I wanted him to have that experience and be alongside baby.
I started shaking (a normal reaction to pain meds) as they stitched and exhaustion and nerves began to overwhelm me, so I began chatting with the anesthesiologist and doctor. I actually ended up talking to them about cloth diapers and my blog. Later on, a nurse asked for the link to my blog. After maybe an hour, they wheeled me into the recovery room, where I waited for what felt like an eternity to see and hold and nurse my baby.
Finally holding Sebastian brought me indescribable joy. Having him in my arms felt so right and sweet, the perfect conclusion to a day of excitement, anxiety, hope, disappointment, and expectation.