Laurel was born on January 20, just a day after her due date! 7 lb, 7 oz, and 20.25″. Here’s our birth story, which was not ideal in a lot of ways, but we all made it out healthy and happy in the end, which is the most important thing 🙂
I first started having spaced out but regular contractions in the early morning of January 19th, our baby’s actual due date, around 3am. They were 12-15 minutes apart and not very strong. I slept through as much as I could, but they were strongest when I tried to lie down, which made sleep difficult. As I got up and started moving around through the day of the 19th, they became less regular and I thought maybe it was just practice labor and I still had some time to wait. I definitely did not anticipate baby arriving on her due date!
Evening of the 19th, we went to sleep, but again the contractions ramped back up as I tried lying down, and I was soon out of bed and pacing the apartment, bouncing on a yoga ball, and spending some time in the shower. Contractions steadily escalated from 12-15 minutes apart to 3-4 minutes apart by about 3am on the 20th. After about an hour of 3-4 minute apart contractions, we decided to go in to the hospital. I was managing really well with my breathing techniques, but felt like I was at the edge of being able to keep it under control during a car ride and wanted to get resettled at the hospital before the contractions got too strong to manage without the aid of being in the shower / Luke’s support.
At triage, they monitored contractions and watched baby’s heart rate, and the midwife on duty came to consult. She did a cervical check and found I was only 2-3 cm dilated. My blood pressure was slightly elevated, but it went down upon a second reading and so she did not want to admit me. She encouraged me to take a sleeping pill and go back home and try to rest. She said I shouldn’t return until the contractions were more like 2 minutes apart, and I was in enough pain to be “vocalizing more.” (Ugh, too successful with my breathing I guess!) Although I wasn’t super keen on this, I let myself be talked into it, which, in hindsight, was not a good plan.
Nonetheless, back home we went, me increasingly under the effects of the sleeping pill they gave me. Unfortunately, I could not sleep, as contractions continued to be the most painful when lying down and were only getting increasingly intense. I was also developing some serious back pain along with the contractions. The next 7 hours while under the influence of the sleeping pill were unpleasant, to say the least, as I was SUPER tired and groggy, much more than I had been before, but also less and less able to actually sleep. I tried taking a bath for a while, but ultimately found the most comfort in the shower, where the water could be directed right on my back where I was in the most pain but I could be standing and use the walls to lean against for support. I’m not sure that spending several hours in the shower while under the influence of a sleeping pill was the safest thing, but we all survived.
Around 10am, the sleeping pill was FINALLY wearing off, and I decided I really needed to go back to the hospital. When Luke called they were not super keen on us coming back since my contractions were still about the same spacing (3-4minutes apart), but I used the excuse of saying I needed help with pain management and they agreed to let us return.
Back in triage, my blood pressure was again elevated, unsurprisingly as I was now in pretty significant back pain, and felt like I was starting to really lose my control over the labor as a result of both the car ride and now being forced to lie down on the hospital bed for the required check-in monitoring. A new midwife was now on duty and she did another cervical check –THANKFULLY I was about 6-7 cm dilated and so they were happy to admit me this time.
The admitting process took what felt like FOREVER. First we had to wait in triage for a room to be ready, and then after being formally admitted I had to have several tests. I wanted to try nitrous for pain management before anything else, and ultimately wanted to use an inflatable tub for labor & delivery. The nitrous required a negative COVID test before you could start using it. Also, because my blood pressure was elevated, I had to have preeclampsia labs before they could set up the pool. We had a great nurse who managed to get the testing done fairly efficiently, and I was able finally to at least get back into a shower while waiting on the various lab results. Luke provided amazing support mentally and also by tirelessly putting pressure on my back where I was having the most pain. The covid test took 1-2 hours to come back, but as soon as it was negative, I was able to start using the nitrous. I found that really helpful as the labor progressed, and I’m really glad it was an option. I felt super in control of how much influence I was under, and it was nice that it both worked quickly but also faded away really fast so I didn’t have any lingering drugged up feelings. The shower and nitrous couldn’t be used simultaneously, but I think it was good to just change things up. While using the nitrous I spent some time standing and squatting with the bed as a stabilizer and also some time on a yoga ball both of which were helpful. I started feeling some urge to push around this time, and they did another cervical check finding me to be 9 cm dilated.
The preeclampsia labs took longer to come through, but I was eventually allowed to get into the pool maybe around 3pm? Honestly, time was such a blur for me at this point. The pool was an amazing relief, especially for my back which was by far the worst of my pain throughout the whole experience, and something I was less mentally prepared for than the contractions themselves. I think that the baby was just in some kind of weird position that was pinching a nerve or something, I am not really sure. I pushed in the pool for an hour or so, but was having a hard time getting any leverage and wasn’t feeling very productive. Also, bizarrely, my water still had not broken! I could feel it bulging out of my cervix and feel the baby’s head through it by this point. Aside: it was really cool to feel my baby so close, and I’m glad the midwives encouraged this 🙂
Because I was a bit stalled out — and also getting really tired at this point! I’d been mostly awake for over 36 hours at this point — the midwife suggested trying to change it up. I think this was the right call, and I’m glad she was there to state the obvious! I might have just stayed in the pool forever. So, I got out and spent some time in hands and knees on the bed, and a little bit of time on the toilet – where my water finally broke! – and used the bars on the wall in the bathroom to get some leverage for strong squats which felt really good. However, my legs were really starting to wear out at this point. We decided to move back to the bed, and try laboring on my side so that my legs could have a break. Baby arrived soon after at 5:38pm!
Baby had a bit of a rough start with lots of fluid in her lungs (maybe because my water broke so late? I was in a total time warp by that point, but Luke says he thinks it was only about 15-20 minutes from water breaking to baby arriving), and ended up needing to be on a CPAP + oxygen for a few hours. They did this first in labor and delivery and then moved her to the NICU. Unfortunately I also lost a lot of blood (a bit over a liter) as my uterus was slow to contract and I had a second degree tear which required quite a few stitches, so I had to stay in the labor and delivery room and couldn’t be with the baby. Luke did stay with her the whole time, which made me feel better that she wasn’t alone, but not being able to really be with the baby right away was the absolute hardest part of the whole experience for me, and something that for all my labor and delivery prep, I was really unprepared for. I had thought a lot about contingencies like considering using medication, or the possibility of needing a c-section, but separation from the baby was not something I had really considered in advance despite also being something that just wasn’t in my control!
I’m happy to say that Laurel was a very strong baby despite her initial fluid filled lungs, and she was off all oxygen and breathing assistance by 12:30am although she remained in the NICU for monitoring until the next morning. As a result of the NICU stay, we didn’t get started breast feeding until about 12 hours after delivery, and she lost a lot of weight in her initial 24 hours. This prolonged our hospital stay as the hospital pediatricians were extremely alarmed by it and wanted her to gain some weight back before they discharged us. They also halted breast feeding just as it got started, diverting me to pumping and feeding her with bottles of my milk + supplementing with donor milk on a regimented once every 2 hours schedule. Thankfully, Laurel ate like a champ, gained 2 ounces between hours 36-48 of her life, and so we got out of the hospital at the end of the second day. By that time, though, I was in a pretty crappy emotional state, to be honest. The NICU stay was super traumatic for me, I found pumping to be both physically and emotionally painful, I was super distraught about not being able to just breast feed my baby, and I was concerned about Laurel’s weight and health!
But, everything got better quickly after this point 🙂 We had our first pediatrician visit the morning after our discharge. We had chosen our pediatrician before Laurel was born, and due to scheduling availability, ended up seeing the Dr. there on Saturday the 23rd. I am SO THANKFUL FOR HER! She immediately calmed us down from the anxiety that the hospital pediatricians had left us with, saying that she was not actually that concerned about the weight loss given the whole situation, and that while we would monitor Laurel’s weight closely and she wanted us to come back in on the following Monday for a check in, that she also wouldn’t expect any baby to be back to birth weight until 2 weeks old, and there was no reason to think Laurel would not get there. She also helped me relax about the whole feeding situation, and helped us get back on track with breast feeding by suggesting I try to breast feed first at every feeding time, then offer formula in a bottle, and cutting out the pumping if it was making me super miserable. She also set us up with a lactation consultant, who came out to our apartment later in the week. I would so recommend both of these wonderful humans if you need a pediatrician or a lactation consultant!! Following their advice, Laurel is now doing GREAT! She gained back a ton of weight just in our first 2 days at home, and was back to birth weight at only 8 days old.
Laurel is 3 weeks old today, and we couldn’t be happier. She eats and sleeps and poops a LOT, of course, but also loves looking out the windows, and checking out our faces, and stretching after naps.