Caleb’s Birth Story
I never had a 39-week blog post since he was born on that day, so a quick recap of what happened in that week:
I was not feeling great. I was stressed about my blood pressure (really didn’t want to be induced), uncomfortable, my nausea returned, and I was generally irritable a lot of the time.
I had a doctor’s appointment on October 1st where my blood pressure was the lowest it had been since I started checking it! This was a big relief. I had another cervical check and was 2 cm dilated and 70% effaced. The annoying thing about these measurements is that it doesn’t actually give you an idea of when you’ll go into labor. You can hang out at 2-4 cm for a couple of weeks, or you can be not dilated at all and go into labor that day. The only thing that check meant was that I had made progress from 2 weeks ago when I was last checked (and was 0 cm dilated).
I had been ravenous all day and even though I was meeting my friend Anna for dinner, I ate an afternoon piece of pizza in addition to my snacks. I had some baby contractions and back cramps the rest of the afternoon, but I didn’t think anything of it since I read it was typical to have some contractions after a cervical check.
I met my friend Anna at Chipotle for dinner, and we had a great time catching up! I can’t remember if I stopped mid-sentence or if she was talking, and I made a face, but my water broke. In a Chipotle booth. Around 7:40pm. I was embarrassed and excited all at the same time. Anna got me some napkins and a towel from her car since I was mortified at the thought of walking about of the restaurant looking like I peed myself. She took great care of me by also telling the workers to come clean up the booth (I was also mortified at that thought) and walking me to my car. I was going to have a baby!
While still in Chipotle, I called Josh and told him my water broke, I would be coming home to shower and that we would need to go to the hospital after that.
Josh had just walked in the door from playing golf after work (I told him to go since I had dinner plans, and we were trying to overlap plans to avoid me being alone since it was so close to my due date). He had decided against staying later at the range to chip some balls (thank goodness) and had just pulled out some leftover pizza and a beer from the fridge. After talking to me, he put the beer back.
Once I got in the car, my next phone call was Becka. While my water breaking first was inconvenient for a number of reasons, the nice part is that it essentially puts a countdown timer on when you’ll have the baby. I told her I assumed he would come in the next 24 hours, and she was able to book a flight for early the next morning to be in Atlanta by 3:30pm the next afternoon!
Then I called Josh again and tried to start telling him all of the things he needed to pack, and he told me he was already packing and for me to just focus on driving home!
But I had way too much nervous energy for that (and it’s only a 15-minute drive home), so then I called my best friend Jenn. I ranted a bit like a crazy person. Only 15% of women have their water break before they go into labor, so I thought that wouldn’t happen to me! It’s also much more likely to have a late baby with your first. And our bathroom wasn’t finished! And it was evening, so I’d have to labor through the night! And I didn’t take a nap today! Jenn helped me focus on the positive – Caleb was coming! And said a quick prayer for me as I pulled into the house.
Josh met me at the door and got me a new towel so I could make my way up to the shower. I called the after-hours number and told the operator that my water broke. She asked if I was having contractions, and that was the first time I even thought about that question. I wasn’t, or they were so light I hadn’t even noticed with all of the excitement.
Luckily, my doctor was on call that night, so she was the one to call me back. She knew my birth plan (goal was to go unmedicated) and said since I wasn’t having contractions to hang at home for 2 hours before coming to the hospital unless I started contracting more regularly before then.
It’s great that she said that because even with being 50-75% packed ahead of time, it took forever to finish packing my bags. I was just so scattered! Once we were mostly packed up, I alternated between walking and bouncing on the yoga ball while we watched a couple of episodes of Young Sheldon.
I started semi-tracking my contractions with an app around 9pm. I would just breathe through them and walk around. They weren’t too bad, and I was trying to keep myself distracted. Another inconvenient thing about your water breaking before you go into labor is that every contraction brings about more of your fluids, so there were a couple of outfit changes before we went to the hospital.
Then it was finally time to leave for the hospital. Contractions in the car weren’t too bad, and I drank my apple juice box to make sure Caleb would be alert for monitoring once we got there.
We arrived around 11-11:15pm and didn’t do the drop off area and instead went straight to the deck, so we could walk in together. We had one stop for a contraction on the way in and then made our way to the check in desk. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long before someone escorted us to our delivery room.
In the Delivery Room
I bought a swimsuit coverup that I thought would be a perfect birthing robe, but I didn’t even take it out of my bag. Once the nurse told me to put on the hospital gown, I just did it. That ended up working out well because I went through a couple of gowns before Caleb arrived anyway.
Even with completing the pre-registration online a few weeks ahead of time, there was a decent amount of paperwork to fill out – including confirming that you want to keep your baby! There was already a copy of my birth plan in my file, so that was a nice relief even though we brought multiple printed copies with us. The nurse confirmed my water broke (not that I had any doubt) and also confirmed there was no meconium in it, which was all good. I had to stay monitored for a while – one unit measuring my contractions and one unit measuring the baby’s heart – so we brought my yoga ball over to the side of the bed with the computer and bounced for a while.
Josh took that time to set up our room. We brought Enviroscent lavender/chamomile scent sticks and a bluetooth speaker and turned the TV on as well. After some monitoring, the nurse checked me and said I was 3-4 cm dilated and 70% effaced, meaning I had made some progress since my appointment that afternoon.
I spent the next 5 hours laboring with Josh’s help before I was checked again (and even then I had to ask for it). I dealt with contractions by adopting some of the positions we learned in our childbirth class and focusing on breathing. I would lean over the bed and have Josh criss-cross rub my back, or I would stand next to him and sway back and forth, or I would bounce on my yoga ball.
They brought me a wireless monitoring unit and said I could be monitored intermittently – 15 minutes on, 45 minutes free every hour. This is a lie; it was on far more than that. I also was Group B Strep positive, so I had to have a penicillin IV every 4 hours. After I was free of the monitor and the IV at the same time, I took a 45-minute shower, and it was the best. It was also the only break Josh got all night!
I thought I would walk a lot more in labor, but my legs were incredibly shaky. I kept saying I was so disappointed in my legs. They are supposed to be strong from all the running! The shaking improved a bit once we adjusted the thermostat up a few degrees, but my quads felt crampy-tired, making bouncing on the ball harder, too.
Overall I found the contractions to not be too terrible, but the various waves of nausea were tough. I’ve only thrown up a few times in my life, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to throw up during labor, so that was a not-fun surprise.
While the contractions individually weren’t bad, being unmedicated meant there was no break and no ability to take a nap. My legs were so tired, but sitting on the bed made the contractions unbearable, so the accumulation is really what gets to you. Since I had been up since 6:30am Tuesday morning, I was getting close to being awake for 24 hours straight. When a nurse came in to check on us, I asked her if there were any non-epidural options because I really just wanted a 30-minute nap. She said they could give me fentanyl to take the edge off the pain, but I would still feel my contractions. She was very encouraging and told me I was in control and was surprisingly quiet. I honestly was surprised with how quiet I had been, too – keeping a lot of it internally. I declined the fentanyl and carried on.
Then she brought me a chair to fit the yoga ball into, and that was almost as good as a nap since I could lean back against the back of the chair in between contractions instead of having to balance myself. I was falling asleep between contractions, making Josh think I was going to fall off the yoga ball with all of the head-flopping I was doing.
Eventually the feeling of pressure made sitting on the call no longer an option, so it was back to standing. Just rubbing my back wasn’t doing it anymore, so Josh started doing counterpressure, and I started audibly working through the contractions with O and M sounds.
Josh had Animal Planet on the TV and would try to distract me into watching whenever there were kittens on the screen. All I remember was one of the kittens was named Nancy and thinking that the guy who narrates the animals on these shows has a really weird job.
My doctor showed up to say hello a little before 7am. She said I seemed to be in transition (the worst and shortest part of labor) and to let her know when the pressure became stronger and didn’t go away in between contractions since that would mean time to push.
I continued laboring with the stronger contractions and sent a text to my parents and best friends asking them to pray for strength for me because “this is difficult.” At some point I typed “how long does transition last?” into Google and I held onto the answer of “30 minutes – 2 hours” really hard.
My doctor came back about 90 minutes later, and I complained that my legs just couldn’t hold me up anymore. She suggested I sit in a warm bath, so I laid in the bed while they got it ready for me. I labored in the tub for about 15-20 minutes, but I found the hard porcelain to be uncomfortable even though the warm water was soothing. I wanted more time with the warm water, though, so I ended up standing in the shower while holding onto the rail while Josh held the showerhead with hot water on my lower back.
Then it was back to standing. I would just throw myself on Josh in slow dance position during contractions since bending over the bed and counterpressure were no longer helping. I started involuntarily pushing during the worst contractions – my legs would give out, and I would dry heave. It was terrible and made me feel out of control, so I moved to the bed. Sitting in the bed made the pressure feel a lot worse, but I wasn’t pushing or wretching, so the tradeoff was worth it.
Then it started happening in the bed as well. Around 9:15am we called the nurse, and I pretty much demanded to start pushing. My body was doing it anyway, and I wanted the control back. She checked me and said I was pretty much at 10cm (with a bit of a cervical lip that she thought I could push past), but Caleb still hadn’t dropped and was at -1 station. I wanted to push anyway, so we got started. I thought I would have a baby by noon!
Pushing is nothing like the movies or TV. All of that screaming and yelling is actually unproductive because you’re supposed to hold your breath while pushing. Holding my breath took some getting used to since I had been breathing through my contractions, and switching to taking a big breath to then hold it while pushing was an adjustment.
Pushing is also 1 step forward, 0.9 steps back. Caleb moved from -1 station to 0 station pretty quickly, but everything slowed down from there. After a few pushes I asked if I could try another position to use gravity to help, so my nurse set up the squat bar on the bed for me. Using the squat bar was definitely more work – going from my knees into a sumo squat to push and then back to my knees for every contraction was a lot more movement than just laying in the bed. But it felt more productive, and it was a nice change! I can remember thinking, “This is so much better than labor.”
My only other note from squat-bar-pushing is that a random lady came into my room during this part. :/
I eventually got tired and went back to laying in the bed. It was nice to get some rest between contractions. My nurse kept saying, “Just a few more pushes, and I’ll call Dr. H,” and it felt like I heard that 8 times before she actually paged her. The funny thing is that I heard her running down the hall before she entered my room (but there was no rush as I know in hindsight).
I pushed for..forever. I kept feeling like nothing was happening and would ask if I was doing ok. My doctor, the nurse, and Josh were all very encouraging despite my skepticism. At one point, I looked at my doctor and asked, “Is everything really going ok?” She seemed to think that was funny and assured me that all was well. Part of me was nervous that if I pushed for too long, they would force me into a C-section, but that was never even mentioned.
Then I just got irritated. I kept calling Caleb a “little punk” to the point that Josh reminded me how much I would love him. And I do! It was just that my expectations of having a baby by noon were not even close to being met.
After 3-3.5 hours of pushing, I told my doctor I was exhausted. I felt cross-eyed I was so tired. She agreed and said she could tell that I wasn’t pushing as long or as hard (aka, not being as productive as I had been). So I asked, “What do you think about me eating an energy gel?”
I had packed some vanilla Gu in my hospital bag since everyone likes to talk about how giving birth is like running a marathon. (Side note: it is NOT! You can drop out of a marathon. There are no breaks with birthing a baby.) You aren’t allowed to eat anything during labor, but Josh brought a Gu over for my doctor to inspect, and she gave it the ok.
The Gu was a great second wind since I hadn’t had any food in about 15 hours and had thrown up everything in my stomach anyway. I felt better within minutes and started renewing my mantras of “I like pushing” and “He has to come out eventually.”
I started making enough progress for the nursery staff to come in, my nurse to put on her gown, and my doctor to have her tray of tools brought over to her. Any change was another point of encouragement for me to know that things were happening.
They put me on oxygen between contractions (I think because his levels were dropping), and Josh was rubbing my quads between contractions and force feeding me Gatorade and water. My next (and last) second wind was when I actually started feeling him coming. I knew the end was near! Having that hope really helps with the fact that there’s no break from the pressure or burning between contractions anymore. The nurse even took my contraction monitor off 1-2 pushes early because she thought he would be out on that push.
I gave my all on what I thought was my last push, but he wasn’t quite out yet. I asked if I could just finish pushing him out, but my doctor said to wait for the next contraction to prevent tearing. This was extremely uncomfortable. And then I just stopped having contractions. I made it a couple of minutes before I essentially hyperventilated and pushed him out.
Caleb was born at 1:25pm on October 2nd, weighing in at 7 pounds, 10 ounces and 20.5 inches long.
The first thing I said was, “Oh my gosh! He’s so big!” They put his giant, pink body on me, and I rubbed his back as he cried and cried. Josh got to cut the umbilical cord after a couple of minutes, and then we had a full hour+ with him just hanging out on my chest before the nursery staff did all of their measurements and bath. They only took him from me for a few minutes when his cries sounded a bit guttural (to make sure he didn’t have fluid in his lungs), but other than that we had a wonderful golden hour together as a family.
I looked up at Josh with my squinty, tired eyes (my face was so swollen from the IV and from 4 hours of pushing) and told him how much I loved him. I definitely couldn’t have made it through the labor without him. He was the best coach and support partner I could have asked for.
After the golden hour the nursery staff did all of their measuring and weighing, and then Josh got to enjoy some baby snuggles, too.
My parents showed up with Chick-fil-A (I highly recommend a milkshake as an efficient way to get calories back in your body), and Becka was able to make her way from Seattle to Atlanta within a couple of hours of his birth thanks to my long labor!
Overall, it was a good experience, and I’m thankful for Josh, my doctor, and the staff at Northside for being so great. Everyone was supportive and encouraging of my birth plan, and we had pleasant interactions with every staff member throughout our hospital stay.