Career Change

I’ve been contemplating a career change for a while now.  I love my current job, but the pay is ridiculous – as in your could not support yourself on it, and forget about supporting a family on it.

I feel like I want a unicorn when it comes to a job.  I want to still be able to spend a good deal of my time with my family, not have to take work home with me, and but also have a livable income….J and I are exhausted from living month to month.

One thing I’ve been thinking about it becoming a certified birth doula.  A doula is a woman who advocates and supports a woman during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.

I had a doula for both of my births and I found her invaluable.  Not only was she helping me with different positions to labor in to help move my babies out, she was able to help J help me as well.  During Henry’s birth, since it was a LONG one, she and J were able to take turns doing things so that they could each be helpful to me and they didn’t reach the exhaustion point so soon.  She also has her own birthing pools that she rented out to us, so we didn’t have to worry about transporting and or buying one ourselves.  She knows so many of the hospital guidelines and will remind nurses/ midwives/ and OBs of them when they forget or try to skirt things. She makes sure all support staff adhere to birth wishes, and also help remind women of their birth wishes.`

There are doulas who also help with postpartum care, and will help do light cleaning, do cooking and laundry, so that all mom has to worry about is cuddling, bonding and feeding her baby.  I’m not immediately looking to work as a postpartum doula, but if I see a demand for it, I’ll eventually get certified for that as well.

I contacted my local YWCA, which has a doula training program.  In exchange for sending you to the certification classes, they require that you be a doula for 3 births for free for them.  These are usually teens or homeless woman that are going through the YWCA courses.  I’m currently waiting to hear back.

I’m hoping that eventually, I can make enough money doing this that it will be my full time job, and I can essentially go into business for myself.

Ben’s Birth Story from Dad’s Perspective

Here is Ben’s birth story as written by J.  I’ve been asking for this story since a few hours after Ben was born, and for a mother’s day gift, J has finally given it to me!  Enjoy a birth story from the father’s perspective!  *As a side note, Ben was born on Father’s Day, and I had promised Lemon Cupcakes for J as a Father’s Day gift.  However, I was a little busy being in labor and then taking care of a newborn baby….so he never got them.  He WILL get his lemon cupcakes this year!

 

I won’t ever forget just how shocked I was when we found out that we were going to have another baby.  We had been trying for a little while, but it wasn’t happening nearly as fast as it did with Henry.  And while the work was certainly fun, knowing that we were older this time around continued to play in the back of my head as another month went by with no luck.  What if we couldn’t do it on our own?  Could we afford fertility treatments?  Was this the universe’s way of telling us it wasn’t meant to be?  It’s hard to shake those fears and concerns, so with time they definitely become more persistent.  So, this was any other Friday afternoon.  I had stopped at Harris Teeter to buy some beer and whatnot and we were planning an evening at home with Henry, then just hoping to chill and watch a movie.  I was putting said beer in the fridge when Amanda came into the garage with the news that she was pregnant!  Turns out I wasn’t going to have to share that beer that evening 😏

 

Now, faithful readers will remember that Henry’s pregnancy was certainly no cakewalk for Amanda.  And after all of the trials we experienced in 2011-12 we thought we were prepared for anything.  But we were wrong.  Now this is a birth story, with the happiest of possible endings, so I do not want to dwell on some of the scarier moments.  But, I think it is important to enter it into the record that there were a number of times during this pregnancy that I honestly feared the worst, and that we would never get to meet, hold or love on C Minor Second.  While the majority of bumps in the road we had with Henry we centered around Amanda’s health, Ben seemed to struggle more this time around. It seemed like every month or so, there was a new fear or a new potential complication.  Do you know how hard it is to be told, “We’ll check again in two weeks and see if there is a heartbeat.  If not, I’m sorry…”  It was pure agony.  I tend to respond to most things in life by trying to remain light and sarcastic, because it is how I cope with things.  But, that was hard even for me a few times over those 9+ months.  That being said, at every turn we were there for each other, and Ben persisted.  He’s a stubborn kid, and I guess that’s a good thing.

 

I do feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t share at least one or two of these more harrowing stories before jumping to the cupcakeless Father’s Day of 2016.  First, was in April, during the final tech week of our musical.  We were putting on Beauty and the Beast, and it was a MAJOR undertaking.  I had not been too involved with the whole process (because I had enough on my plate), but I did assist with some aspects leading up to the event and was rehearsing and directing the pit orchestra (my first time doing that).  The orchestra was made up of my students and some of my peers, and it is a SUPER hard book (both for singers and instrumentalists).  I knew going into that week was going to be tough, because we had rehearsal with the full cast and orchestra planned from after school until 10 or 11pm every evening, with shows on Friday and Saturday.  So I was in rehearsal one afternoon, and the cast was taking a break when I got a phone call.  Amanda had not been feeling well for a little while, and was starting to get really concerned.  She thought, given all the scares we’d had with Cm6/4 to that point that she needed to err on the side of caution and go to see the midwife to get checked out.  We knew it was going to be late, so I called Matt and he and Jenn agreed to watch Henry for the evening.  Since I was in Hillsborough conducting while Angie (the chorus director) was running lights and sound, we decided I would stay at work and Amanda and Christy would keep me in the loop via text.

 

So, I went and filled Angie in and told the orchestra as well, just in case something came up.  And back to it we went.  Well, about an hour or so later I get a phone call.  I dash out of the auditorium while they are working on a scene with no underscore and find out that they are sending Amanda back to Women’s Hospital (second trip that week) and that on top of whatever was wrong with Amanda, she was having contractions and that they might have to kick off labor that night.  Naturally, I freaked out and ran back into the auditorium.  I filled in Angie, who told me to get the hell out of there and not to give the show a second thought.  I literally threw my belongings into my bag, ran out of my office and into my car.  I made it from Hillsborough to Greensboro in around 45 minutes (I’d never made the drive so fast).  A lot of that evening was a blur, but when I got there I remember trying to keep the mood light and not add to anyone freaking out (I believe we watched the Office for a little bit).  At that point, the doctors were still uncertain about what was going on, and the chance that something might have to happen regarding the baby was still on the table.  I can remember pacing the hallways outside of the ER room as we waited for Amanda to be moved to a room for the night, calling Angie and discussing contingencies for if I couldn’t conduct the show.  We were able to formulate a plan, and I went with Manda to move her upstairs for the night.  I drove home, and after getting pulled over in the Harris Teeter parking lot by a VERY nice officer who informed my that my tags were expired, I was able to get some food and get home to eat dinner a little after midnight.

 

From that point on, we were in constant vigilance.  On top of the health scare for Amanda and the baby, our midwife swore up and down that labor would start naturally, and likely around 37-38 weeks.  So, everything else on my work calendar for that year (and there’s always something…) became a potential issue.  I organized alternative conductors for my concert, for Senior Awards Night and for Graduation.  The day of graduation was a crazy one.  Not only did we have to rent and drive a 26’ box truck loaded with our equipment to the Dean Smith Center at UNC, then Angie’s husband was in a car accident that afternoon on I-85.  And to put the cherry on the sundae, Amanda was having some pretty strong and regular contractions.  Seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried.  I alerted EVERYONE at graduation, my students, co-workers, my Principal, about the situation.  Even the UNC employees knew about it, and were doing everything in their power to ensure that as soon a we finished, we could pack up and exit quickly in case I needed to haul ass to Greensboro.  Throughout the entire ceremony, I continually checked my phone for updates on Baby-Watch 2016, but while the contractions were still happening, she didn’t need to go to the hospital yet; but this might finally be it.

 

So after the ceremony, we loaded all the equipment, I drove the truck back to Cedar Ridge, and we unloaded everything with the help of some awesome band students and parents.  Amanda was still at home, so we had one final thing to do. Angie and I drove to Durham to drop off the box truck and close the book on commencement activities for 2016.  However, when turning onto I-85, a recent graduate of Durham School of the Arts ran the red light and plowed right into Angie’s car, hitting right behind where I was sitting.  The airbags deployed, we got spun around a few times and ended up facing the wrong way on the on-ramp.  While the cars were totaled, no one had serious injuries and we were able to walk away from the accident.  I immediately called Amanda, who told me the contractions were even closer, and to please try and get home as quickly as possible.  After speaking to the police, after about 45 minutes Angie’s aunt picked me up and drove me to my car so I could hightail it back to Burlington and grab the Go-Bag.  But by the time I arrived, the contractions had all but stopped, and another false alarm was confirmed.  Amanda swears that it was the shock of hearing the car accident news that halted her labor, and had that not happened there was a very good chance that would have been the night.

 

But alas, it was not.  And the waiting continued.  Summer break started, and each day that passed was one less day I would get to spend with the baby before the school year started back up.  We walked around the neighborhood (A LOT), with Manda even walking with one leg on the curb to open her hips more.  We did everything in our power to get labor to kick off (I thought Captain America: Civil War might have done the trick, but again, no luck).  We had a few more instances of, “this is it!”  But, they always turned out to not be.  38, 39, 40 weeks all came and went and still no baby.  We were seriously worried we were on a path again for induction that could not be avoided.  We even spoke to the midwife about it, but decided against it.  Truth be told, I was disappointed, but I understood.  I was just so ready to meet this new baby who was being (characteristically) stubborn.

 

So, at the end of another week lots of contractions, but still no baby.  It was a really lovely Saturday, and we went on an extended family walk (I think around 2 miles if memory serves me right).  Even though Amanda was definitely still preggers, we were excited because this allowed us the opportunity to go out and celebrate Greg’s birthday party downtown in Greensboro.  Initially we hadn’t RSVP’d because we thought that by this point we might have a baby that was a few weeks old (and we could make a brief appearance at the party) or a brand newly arrived baby and wouldn’t be able to attend at all.  But, since there was no baby, there would be beer.  Well, for me anyway…  So, Henry was gonna have a sleepover at my parents house, and we were planning on having what we fully expected a final date night before Cm6/4 arrived.  Henry was super excited, and was reping both DC and Marvel attire (I remember this distinctly).  We took him to my parents, dropped him off then headed to Gibbs Brewery downtown.

 

Gibbs was a new place with really quality beer, and we were having a really good time.  We got there a little late, so there wasn’t much food left, but I was frankly fine with beer.  There was some less than stellar music there, and there is a distinct chance that this was what finally spurred the beginning of real labor.  So, as we hung out with friends, I enjoyed a few drinks completely unaware that Manda was constantly having more and more contractions throughout the evening.  Since we had experienced so many close calls and false alarms, Amanda just decided to not get anyone’s hopes up and keep this to herself.  Eventually, we decided more food was needed and walked over to Natty Greene’s.  While en route, a complete stranger on the street walked up and put her hands on Amanda’s baby bump; maybe this was the final catalyst?

 

We arrive at Natty’s, and folks ordered some food.  I was being cheap, and not really all that hungry, so I just got another beer.  We’re hanging out, having fun when Amanda leans over and said that she’s feeling uncomfortable, we should probably head home.  Well, when your 41 week pregnant wife says it’s time to go, it’s time to go.  We settled up, said final “happy birthdays” and goodbyes, and walked to the car.  As we were walking, a car pulled up and the driver shouted from the front seat, “You gonna have that baby here on Elm Street?!”  We laughed at this, but in retrospect, was maybe another subtle indicator of what was happening.  When we arrived at the car, Manda makes me aware that she’s been on the DL having some serious contractions all day, and this might FINALLY be it.  Despite all the false alarms, I was still very excited and more than eager to time the contractions as she was driving.  That’s right, she was driving.  And in labor.  My wife is a boss.  When we got home, we settled in to see what would happen.  Amanda got out the yoga ball and I put “The Office” on Netflix (as was our tradition).

 

The other day, Amanda asked me when I knew that this “was really it.”  And I told her, when I started chugging coffee.  Since we’d been home, the contractions were clearly getting MUCH more intense and more frequent.  It very quickly became evident that this was it, the real deal, the big show, GO TIME.  Now, finding out that your wife is finally in labor has a very sobering effect, but it was already after midnight, and I was fully anticipating a LONG haul before sleep.  So, I emptied the coffee pot and started throwing down some caffeine.  We called the midwife and woke her up, who told us to keep her in the loop and she would start heading in (at least, that’s how we remember the conversation going).  As it became 100% certain that we were leaving for the hospital, I went to wake up Christy and pack the Go Bag.  We had the bags planned, but not really packed…  They were more like “Go-ish Bags,” but I was moving fast so it didn’t take me long.

 

My memory is terrible regarding the actual time, but it was after 1 when we decided it was time to head to Women’s Hospital.  Christy decided to drive her car so she could pick up Henry (thank GOODNESS he was already at my parents, another clue from the universe that sometimes things just line up) and head home when she needed to.  As I threw everything into the Prius and started it up, I called my parents.  They were clearly asleep, but I told them it was go time and we were heading to the hospital.  I reiterated that NO ONE should worry about coming to the hospital and waiting for the baby to arrive, because it could be hours before that happened.  Under normal circumstances, I think this would have created more of an argument, but since they were half asleep they were happy to oblige.

 

So, time to go.  Or not…  Amanda had to stop in the door of the car to get through a contraction, and they were beyond uncomfortable and into painful territory by now.  I didn’t say anything to Amanda, but this was the first moment I was worried that we had waited too long and that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time.  The contraction passed, and we laid her down in the front seat, getting her as comfortable as possible (no easy task).  I then put the pedal to the medal  as they say (with my little hybrid engine) and tried to get to the hospital as quickly – and safely – as possible.  Amanda was in a good deal of pain and discomfort, so I tried to just keep talking to her throughout the whole drive.  I kept announcing landmarks as we passed them, so she could track that we were indeed getting closer and closer to the destination.

 

When we arrived at the intake at Women’s, there were no cars in front and the waiting room was virtually empty (thank goodness!).  Now with Henry, we didn’t act out this scene you always see in movies of the frantic parents bursting into the waiting room and demanding a room because the baby WAS COMING!  He was induced, so checking in four years ago was like calmly checking into a hotel.  So, this was all new territory for us.  I was hoping that with the empty waiting area, we would be quickly whisked into a room; NOPE.  Paperwork and waiting.  I moved the car after we got Amanda inside, and soon Christy and Kenny (the doula) were there helping ease Manda through the contractions.  They were handling a lot of the counter pressure, so my role was really to be there for Amanda to hang on to, and I was happy to serve.  When we finally were admitted, I felt like they put us in the delivery room that was the farthest away from the entrance as possible; I swear Amanda had three or four contractions just trying to get down the hall.  At this point, one of the nurses asked if our midwife was on the way, and I said that we spoke to her hours ago and were under the impression that she was already here.

 

…oops.  Turns out we misunderstood one another, and after speaking with us initially she had gone back to sleep.  So, they quickly got her on the phone and told her to get herself down to the hospital.  After we got into the room and they checked Amanda she was much farther along than we anticipated; those contractions were doing the work and the baby was coming that day!  But, the contractions were moving fast, and until the midwife signed off on it, Kenny couldn’t even fill up the birthing pool for Amanda to labor in.  She so wanted a water birth, and had worked so hard to keep this a possibility, we would have been devastated had that option been taken away.  So, as we waited, the room was abuzz with nurses checking Manda and the baby, and Kenny and Christy trying to be sneaky and setup the pool as much as they could get away with.  All the time, my job remained the same.  I held Amanda, and let her hang on me to keep all the pressure downward for her hips and help move that baby boy out.  Frankly, I was grateful to be of some help, because I know that Amanda was in a great deal of pain and discomfort by this point.

 

When our midwife did arrive (with her scrubs inside out), she checked out Amanda and gave the all clear.  Amanda quickly got in the tub, and began the process of laboring in there.  The labor with Henry years before had taken hours, so I was unsure of what to expect moving forward.  But after a few contractions in the tub, with me leaning over into the water so Amanda could continue to hold on to me) it became clear that this was happening very fast.  That’s when I got my hopes up, and things halted.  After a bit, the momentum seemed to have slowed.  The contractions were still strong and frequent, but the baby wasn’t getting anywhere.  It’s never easy with these kids!!  Turns out that he was stuck on a part of Amanda’s pelvic bone, and couldn’t move past.  Apparently, we cannot have a baby without the midwife inserting herself into my wife…  As she tried to maneuver the cervix while Manda was in the tub, it was clear how agonizing this was for her.  I hoped it would be a quick adjustment, but no luck.  Eventually, Amanda was told she needed to labor on the bed for a moment so they could keep trying.  Getting out of the tub and onto the bed was a Herculean effort, and I felt so terrible I couldn’t do more to help or ease the pain she was going through.  While on the bed, Amanda was screaming in pain as the midwife tried to make things work, and with each passing minute I got more and more worried that we were heading for C-Section territory.

 

Finally, it looked like the baby’s head made it past the lip and Amanda could get back into the pool.  By this time, she was exhausted and in pain, and didn’t want to move.  I remember telling her that she could do this, and reminding her how much she wanted this waterbirth for her and our baby.  The tub was right there, let me help her get back into the water.  Eventually, she summoned the strength and we lowered her back into the pool.  Things quickly got intense again fast, and while the baby was moving it was clearly painful for Amanda.  She had asked me to try and remain calm, stay in her line of sight, and remind her that she could do ANYTHING for one minute at a time.  So I did that, and she kept pushing.  When the baby crowned, I started having trouble with the line of sight bit, because Amanda was bearing down so much her face was in the water, but I was cheering her on as best as I could.  Suddenly, you could see her shoulders relax as the baby cannonballed into the pool, flipping and being caught by the midwife.  For a minute, the baby was quiet, and then suddenly a big breath and crying.  We had another baby boy!!

 

We immediately helped to shift Amanda around so she could hold our son and relish in the fruits of her labor.  He was beautiful.  I was struck by how similar he looked to Henry (a trait that almost one year in, they still share).  I helped to cut the cord, and got to do a little skin to skin myself with little Benjamin Sean.  I was stoked for the name Ben, because it has NUMEROUS incarnations through nerd culture.  He was amazing, and after all that time, all those false alarms and all the scary moments, we were holding our son.  We were a family of four, and it was awesome.

 

The next few hours were a whirlwind, but soon we were in the recovery room, the sun was out, and Ben was asleep in Amanda’s arms.  Soon, my parents came with Henry, and he got to meet his baby brother for the first time.  Henry was so excited to be a big brother, and he continues to excel in that role more and more with each passing day.  From that first moment, the two of them had a connection, and Benjamin continues to be enamored with his brother and follows him everywhere.  I am very eager to watch them grow together.

 

Oh, we also had cheeseburgers and milkshakes!  After a long night, there is little in this world better than a greasy burger from Cookout.  The journey to have another baby had started a year ago, and we were finally at the finish line.  I was so proud of Amanda, who throughout all the months was always doing everything she could to care for Ben and ensure he could grow and join us in this world.  Every moment I spend with my wife and sons is the happiest moment, and I am so thankful for all of them.

Benjamin’s Birth Story

 

Benjamin’s Birth Story

To tell you about the birth of my second child, I have to tell you about the birth of my first child.  With my first pregnancy I had Gestational Diabetes, and Gestational Hypertension and due to mounting concerns from my midwives from my rising blood pressure and heart rate, I was induced at 39 weeks.  My cervix was dilated with a foley balloon, and then my water was broken.  After 10 hours of intense labor, I was hooked up to pitocin which caused back to back, incredibly painful contractions with no break in between.  I quickly became overwhelmed and frightened, and I gave up on my natural birth plan and got an epidural.  Several hours later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy my husband Josh and I named Henry.  Despite the fact that I had a beautiful and healthy baby, I had this irrational feeling that I had somehow failed at his birth.

Fast forward 4 years to my second pregnancy. This second time around I had several goals so that I would get the birth experience that I wanted.  The first was to go into labor on my own.  The second was to have a natural birth with no interventions (I wanted to stay as far away from pitocin as I could), and the third goal was to have a water birth.  

So to prepare for the natural birth, I tried to cement into my head that I can do anything for one minute.  Meaning, that when those contractions became difficult, painful and/or overwhelming, I could focus on the fact that it would be over in one minute, and then I’d get a break.  I would meditate on that subject, and go to sleep at night thinking about it, building my foundation for this natural birth that I so wanted.

With both of my pregnancies I had Gestational Diabetes, but the second time around I did not have the hypertension that I had in the first; my blood pressure stayed beautiful the whole time.  The main difference between my pregnancies were the false labor (practice labor) contractions that I had.  For the last several weeks of my pregnancy (and by “several weeks” I mean at least 5 weeks) I would have timeable contractions that would start, increase in intensity and then all of a sudden stop.  Starting at 36 weeks we had several false alarms.  Some that even sent us to the Midwife’s office to be assessed, but each time, it turned out to be braxton hicks contractions.  The longer I stayed pregnant the more I felt like a ticking time bomb.  I was more than ready for my baby to decide on its birthday.  Having to relinquish the control and let the baby decide when it wanted to be born was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy, and I struggled with that aspect almost every day.  

When I hit 40 weeks, I was a bit shocked.  I assumed that since this was a second kiddo that I wouldn’t make it to my due date, but June 12th came and went.  I started to feel like I’d be pregnant forever, and that I’d be enrolling my gigantic belly into kindergarten.  The longer I stayed pregnant the more my brain started to assess every cramp, twinge and pain that I felt, which at 40+ weeks is about every 4.3 seconds.  I felt like I was slowly losing my sanity while waiting for my baby to decide what day it wanted to be born.  This kid wanted to stay put despite all the red raspberry leaf tea I was drinking, all the evening primrose oil I was taking, all the squats that I did, and the daily walks I took.  

On Friday the 17th, at 5 days past my due date, I broke down and called my midwife’s office and asked if I could come in and talk about options.  I was starting to get a bit nervous about going over my due date because of the Gestational Diabetes, as well as just wanting to be done being pregnant.  I’m one of those people who don’t love being pregnant.  I love the end result, but the actual process of growing a human is extremely hard on me.  I had horrible morning sickness the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, and then had two trips to the hospital in my third trimester because of gallbladder issues, and let’s be honest, GD, although manageable, doesn’t make things easy either.  

Anyway, on June 17th, I was really hoping that I could get my membranes stripped, and that it might propel me into labor.  However, at the appointment one of my midwives informed me that she couldn’t reach my membranes to strip them, so unless I wanted to schedule an induction, I was just to wait.  Josh and I had talked about having an induction, and we were considering it as an option.  However, when the midwife brought it up and described how she would induce me, I firmly decided against it.  Hearing the process she would take for the induction brought back all of the memories of my first birth.  So, we went home a bit sad and discouraged, and resigned ourselves to wait.

I had a few contractions on Friday night after the appointment, some even timeable, but I didn’t think anything of them.  As always, I was disappointed that I was able to go to sleep and that they seemed to have stopped.  On Saturday, the day before I hit 41 weeks, I had some projects to do around the house (making Josh’s Father’s Day gift with Henry), and as the day wore on, I noticed that I had been having contractions for most of the morning.  At some point I texted Josh to tell him that I was having them, but I didn’t know if it would lead to anything, so not to get excited.  He got similar texts to that one for about the last 5 weeks, so he didn’t think much of that text either.  My contractions were irregular in length, and really far apart – 40 minutes or so, and very mild, I could ignore them easily.  To me they still felt like braxton hicks.    

In the afternoon Josh and I took a 2+ mile walk in our neighborhood.  It was great time to spend just the two of us.  We talked about how we wanted labor to go, when we thought the baby would come, and how our first son Henry would do as an older sibling.  We were so excited for this baby to join us!  I was contracting all through the walk, but didn’t think anything of it, those contractions had become so routine.

We had a friends birthday party to attend that night, and I really wanted to go.  So, Josh and I got ready and headed out of the house around 5:30.  We dropped Henry off at the in-laws for him to spend the night (that turned out to be very serendipitous), and drove out to the party downtown.

All through the party I was having contractions, and after a while I was noticing that I needed to zone out while they were happening.  They were still really far apart, and I could still talk through them if I needed to, but they were getting harder and harder to ignore.  They still weren’t painful, but I was starting to have to focus on them and my breathing during them.  

Josh and I had a really great time, and as we walked around downtown I had a lot of people comment on my belly.  Around 9 pm, we stopped at a restaurant and got something to eat.  While eating dinner, I noticed that my contractions were getting closer together, and I was getting more and more uncomfortable.  At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I had a strong contraction while in there.  It’s at that point that I started to think these contractions might actually lead to something.  A short time later I noticed another contraction that was strong as well.  After 4 strong contractions (at 10:15ish) I told Josh that we probably needed to head home.  So, we paid for our meal, packed up to-go boxes, and said goodbye to our friends.  As we were walking to our car, I heard a guy yell out of his car window “Are you going to have that baby on Elm St?!”  I yelled back “I wish!”

As we were walking to the car I told Josh about the contractions and that we should start timing them as we drive home.  He seemed surprised at that statement, but pulled the app up on the phone to time them.  As Josh had had a few beers that night, I ended up driving home while having contractions that were about 10 minutes apart.  I supposed I should have mentioned the contractions earlier…It’s a good thing that my excitement trumped any kind of pain I was feeling.  The first contraction we timed was at 10:45.  As soon as we got home, we finished packing the go bag and got everything ready in case this was really it.

Once the bag was packed, everything seemed to get more intense fairly quickly.  By midnight my contractions were about 5 minutes apart.  They were starting to get strong, and to get through them, I was leaning over the yoga ball and having Josh do counter pressure on my lower back.  It’s around this time that my back labor started.  My pelvis and lower back were really starting to hurt, but leaning over the ball and firm pressure on my lower back really helped and kept them manageable.

We called our doula to let her know what was happening.  She asked how I was handling everything, and I told her I was ok.  She told us to keep her posted, but because I hadn’t had any bloody show, or lost my mucus plug she wasn’t convinced that this was it, especially with all of the false alarms we’d had.  She told us to call her the moment I saw bloody show, or if I needed help and wanted her to come to the house. I was handling everything well at this point, so I just kept laboring.

Some more time passed and when my contractions hit around 4 minutes apart Josh and I called our midwife to let her know what was up, and she said to head to the hospital at any time.  I wanted to wait as long as possible at home, so we just kept going.  Me leaning over the yoga ball, breathing through contractions, Josh doing counter pressure on my back and The Office streaming from Netflix to distract us between contractions.

By 1:00, my contractions were 3 minutes apart, and I was really having to concentrate to get through them, and had started to vocalize during them.  My mom joined us around this time and was helping to get things ready for us to head out.  I kept waiting for my contractions to become as painful as what I remembered from my first pregnancy, but that never happened.  And because I never reached that pain threshold, I was really unsure about when to head to the hospital.  As long as I was in a position that took the pressure off of my lower back, I was good.    

Still unsure that it was time, Josh, my mom and I left for the hospital at around 1:30.  As we were getting ready to get in the car I  just stood at the car door and had 2 contractions standing there because I didn’t want to sit down.  I was having strong back pain, and I knew sitting would put an unwelcome amount of pressure on my pelvis and would be excruciating…I wasn’t wrong.

That 30 minute trip to the hospital was awful.  I tried to lay on my sides as much as possible to take pressure off of my lower back and pelvis, but I could never find a comfortable position.  I  withered in pain during each contraction (2 minutes apart at this point) and the pain in my back was unbelievable.  Josh was my rock though.  He kept calling out landmarks as we were driving so that I’d know how close we were getting.  As soon as we got to the hospital I was out of that car as fast as I could be.  

While checking in I had several more contractions.  I would sit in the chair to rest while talking and answering questions to the woman behind the counter, and during each contraction I would have to stand up and lean over the counter and moan, this didn’t seem to phase the woman at all.  Once I had a bracelet on my wrist, I was in the waiting room and had to lean on chairs.  My mom applied counter pressure on my back while Josh parked the car.  

At this point in time my contractions were fierce and almost frightening in their intensity.  I was finding it harder and harder to keep my composure.  I kept thinking that I didn’t want to do this and that I wanted an epidural, I even voiced those thoughts to my mom who told me I could have whatever I wanted – sweet words that helped me calm down.  Soon after those thoughts popped in my head, our doula arrived (Josh called her at some point to let her know we were going to the hospital) and was helping me with positions while we waited to be called back, and my thoughts of giving up on a natural birth went away.

I was the only one in the waiting room, and was taken to be assessed fairly quickly.  They checked my blood pressure (which was up) and temp (which was normal).  They then took me straight back to a room – although I hadn’t been admitted yet.  It took some time to get to the room.  I didn’t want to sit in a wheelchair, so I walked.  And, during each contraction I would stop and lean on Josh in the hallway.

I had three nurses that seemed to be moving and buzzing all around me.  Soon after getting into the room a nurse asked me to undress from the waist down so that she could check me.  I dreaded getting on my back, but I managed it.  I was so worried that they were going to tell me that I was only 3 cm and that I needed to go back home.   However, I was relieved to find out that I was at 8 cm dilated and 90% effaced!  No wonder I’d been having thoughts on giving up – I was in transition!!  I remember looking at Josh and smiling, at that point we knew it wouldn’t be long before we got to meet our baby!

For the next little while, I was standing next to the bed, with my head on Josh’s chest, eyes closed, belly hanging down between us and moaning through contractions while a nurse hooked up the belts to my belly.  I had another that was putting an IV in my arm for my GBS, and another that was entering information into the computer.  All through this, my midwife still wasn’t at the hospital, and was on her way.  In all of our haste, we forgot to call her.  The nurses were texting her telling her to hurry.

I remember a nurse saying that my IV was placed at 2:45.  We had planned all along for this to be a water birth, and I was excited for it!  I was more than ready to get in that warm water.  However, I was told that I couldn’t get in the birthing pool until my midwife got there because of paperwork.  And, because my midwife wasn’t there, my doula couldn’t even fill up the tub!  To cut the tension that information caused, Josh tried to distract everyone by taking a poll about the baby’s gender.  Apparently, there had been a streak of girls born at the hospital and all the nurses thought the baby would be a girl.

All this time going by, I was still standing next to the bed with my head on Josh’s chest and eyes closed.  Being in labor is the wildest feeling.  I was conscious, and aware of everything that was going on, but I was also totally in my own head, my brain thinking and whirring the whole time but unable or unwilling to voice most of it.  I was just concentrating on the contractions, trying to remain relaxed and loose, and to rest as much as possible between them.  

The nurses must have pushed my IV fairly quickly, almost as soon as it was placed it was taken out.  They left a heparin lock in, and taped a rubber glove over my arm so that I could get in the tub when the time came.

I’m fuzzy on the times, but I was told that my midwife got to the hospital around 3:10, and it’s at that point that I was finally admitted to the hospital.  I found out later that she had her shirt on inside out because she was in such a hurry to get there.  As soon as she came in she got the paperwork going for the birthing tub to be set up, and then she turned to me and wanted to check me.  I was so over being checked, and I didn’t want to get on my back because of the back labor I was having.  I didn’t want to move, I just wanted to stay exactly as I was, but I finally consented.  

I waited until I had just finished a contraction, and got on the bed.  She checked me fairly quickly and told me that I was now at 9 cm!  But, she then kept me on my back to break my water.  I was irritated at this, because she never asked if she could break it, and I didn’t know it was happening until it was too late to do anything about it.  As my doula was setting up the tub, she didn’t know it was happening until after.  And, then of course I had another contraction while on my back, which caused me to whither and cry out in pain, derailing me from my focus.  Back labor is just awful….

In retrospect, I wish I had declined that final check, but labor is a funky thing.  With both of my births I have found that when someone tells me to do something, I’ve found that I generally just do it without thinking, despite all the plans I had made previously.

I remember looking at the bed after my water had been broken and saw my mucus plug and bloody show on the pad.  Who would have thought that at 9 cm dilated that those two things would still be firmly in place?  My water was clear, so thankfully I’d be allowed to get in the pool.  I was told that if my water had meconium in it I wouldn’t be allowed to labor or deliver in the pool.  I had one contraction after my water was broken, and man they don’t lie when they say that contractions are more intense after your water breaks.

After all of that, the pool was finally ready and I was chomping at the bit to get in it.  The warm water felt amazing, and really helped to take the edge off the contractions.  Almost as soon as I was in the water, my body started to push on its own.  I was kneeling in the pool, hanging over the edge and pushing, and pushing and pushing…..and getting nowhere.  After a while, my midwife checked me while I was in the pool and discovered that I had an anterior lip of cervix caught between my pubic bone and the baby’s head which was now swollen.  So, my midwife had me flip over on my back to push for a few contractions while she tried to move the lip of my cervix out of the way.  #1.  it hurt like hell to be on my back again, #2. it hurt even more when she was messing with my cervix.  I believe I was screaming in pain.

My midwife couldn’t get my cervix to move out of the way while I was in the pool, so she then wanted me to get out of the pool and onto the bed.  The move out of the pool took an immense amount of strength for me.  I did not want to move.  I was in pain, out of focus and just wanted to be left alone.  I remember that I was thinking that I just wanted this to be over, and I wanted a break.  I even had thoughts of wanting a C-section so I could be done.  I never voiced those thoughts, and eventually I did make it onto the bed.   I believe Josh and the nurses had to almost physically haul me out of the tub.   

And, once again I was put on my back while my midwife tried to move my cervix out of the way.  It was more painful than it sounds.  I remember yelling quite fiercely while she was moving it, and begging for her to stop.  She kept telling me that I wouldn’t like her during this, but I would like her afterward, and she was right.  Eventually she got the lip out of the way.  She had me then get on my knees and push on the bed for two contractions, to get the baby’s head below the lip.  That time it worked, and I could get back in the pool.  However, I didn’t want to move.  I remember telling everyone to leave me alone, that I just wanted to relax and have some downtime.  My contractions had spaced out and weren’t as hard as the transition contractions, and I just breathed through them without bearing down, giving myself a little rest.  I was tired, and my energy was draining, and I really just wanted a nap.  My doula was strongly encouraging me to get back in the water before I had the baby on the bed, and eventually I summoned the strength to move again.

As soon as I started pushing in the pool, I could feel the baby moving down.  And, fairly soon the head was right there, ready to come out.  That feeling, freaked me the hell out.  It burned oh so badly.  I felt like I was stretched to the max and was about to tear from stem to stern.  But, Josh, my mom, my midwife and doula helped me get refocused.  Seriously, Josh was amazing the whole time.  He really was my rock and kept me focused and determined.  He was repeating the mantra I’d been saying to myself my whole pregnancy: I can do anything for one minute.  That helped snap me out of my freakout.  I also remember my midwife telling me that I was fine, and that I wasn’t going to tear apart, which was reassuring.  They then helped me widen my knees and when I was pushing I would sit back, almost in a child’s pose, or as close to child’s pose as a pregnant, laboring woman can get.  Seriously, my face was in the water as I was pushing.  After a few more times pushing like that, and out the baby came.  I believe the baby came out in one push.  One of the nurses later told me that the baby ended up doing a flip in the water as he came out.

The next thing I heard was Josh announcing that the baby was a boy!  It took some fancy maneuvering since he came out so fast behind me, but I was able to stand up, step over the cord, sit back down in the water and then he was handed to me.  For the next while I was holding our son to my belly (the cord was too short to reach to my chest) skin to skin in the water and just marveling him.  I just kept thinking how beautiful he was.  He was squishy and plump and perfect in every way.  He cried a few times, and then was just alert and calm, snuggling with me.  Josh was leaning over the pool and I could hear in his voice that he was tearing up.  It was a very beautiful moment.  

Soon enough the cord stopped pulsating and Josh cut the cord.  Not long after, I handed Josh the baby to do skin to skin with while I got out of the tub.  I got up on the bed and I was covered with warm blankets, and then the baby was handed back to me.  He nestled right on my chest, and was just beautiful.  It’s at that point that we decided to name him Benjamin.

I definitely remember still having contractions after Ben was born, which I still had to breathe through, but I didn’t care about them.   Instead, I was irritated at the umbilical cord, because it just kept seeming to get in the way and rub places that it did not feel good to rub against.  Thankfully, not long after getting up on the bed I delivered the placenta, which didn’t hurt at all.  I had a tear (no idea on the degree, I never asked), which required stitches (I have no idea how many).  My midwife gave me a few shots to numb the area, which stung, and then I could feel her stitching me up, feel the thread pulling through skin, but oddly it didn’t hurt.  All while that was happening the nurses were assessing Ben on my chest.  Ben’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9.

We got over an hour of skin to skin time before Ben was taken to be weighed.  It seemed no one in the room could agree on how much they thought he’d weigh.  The nurses all suspected that he’d be around 7 lbs, but we were all surprised when he was 8 lbs, 6 oz.  He was 20.5 inches long, with a head circumference of 14 inches.  

After everything was all said and done, and we had been moved from Labor and Delivery to the Mother/Baby suite, things settled down and I was finally able to really connect with my son.  I’ve read account after account of women getting that natural oxytocin rush immediately after delivery, but that overwhelming feeling of love, comfort and peace didn’t come to me until about 3+ hours after Ben was born.  I believe because those first two hours are so busy, with so many people working on you and assessing the baby, even while you’re holding him, that it’s hard to just sit and relax and bond.  But, once it was just me and my husband alone with Benjamin, that overwhelming feeling of love started to flow.  Even now, over 6 months later, I still get that feeling whenever I look at my boys.  

Benjamin was born at 4:23 in the morning on June 19, 2016 – Father’s Day.  I think that he was the best Father’s Day gift that we could have ask for!

 

 

Week 16-17

Dear Baby,

Sorry for combining two weeks.  I’ve been on winter break and I honestly haven’t wanted to touch a piece of technology.  Last week you were the size of an avocado, and this week you’ve grown to the size of an onion.  The amazing transformation that’s happened is that you can hear now!  The tiny bones in your ears are forming and allow you to hear my voice, and perhaps even others as well.  Your hair is growing, and your taste buds are developing.  You’re also finally starting to bulk up by adding some fat to your body.
What’s been up with me the past two weeks?  My bronchitis seems to be finally getting better.  I’m still coughing and sneezing some, but I’ve finished my last round of antibiotics, so I’m hoping I’ll be done with this crud once and for all.  I’ve been having some crazy dreams….really weird ones.  Everything I’ve read says that it’s normal, and fairly common, but it’s still weird that it’s a pregnancy symptom.  I also broke down and bought a body pillow.  I’d been sleeping pretty badly, waking up sore and stiff, and ever since I got it, I’ve been sleeping much better.  It takes up over half the bed….but your dad promises that he doesn’t mind, at least not that much.
We’ve got your nursery pretty much laid out.  It’s going to be cramped and over crowded, but there’s not much we can do about that.  I’ve also got out a bunch of your brothers baby clothes and washed them so that they’ll be ready for you.  I just need to buy some baby hangers so I can hang up a bunch of stuff.  I’m really excited for our ultrasound next week!  I can’t wait to see you on the big screen!
In other news I’ve been doing some reading on how I can prepare for your birth the best that I can.  I’m reading “HypnoBirthing” and one of my coworkers has offered to let me borrow her HypnoBaby scripts when she’s done with them.  I really want a calm, peaceful and natural birth for you.  I tired to have one with your brother, but it didn’t workout quite like I wanted.  We hired the same doula, and I’m going to try for a water birth again.  I’m really excited about doing this all again.  And, I’m so excited about being your mom.
I love you!  Keep growing,
Momma

New Perspective

*J’s and my wedding anniversary was June 7th, and for my gift this year he wrote out his version of Henry’s birth story – which I’ve been asking for since Henry was born.  I finally got it, and it’s the best gift ever.  Here is J’s account of Henry’s birth. 

Let’s turn the clocks back one year, to the day.  And I say that because I really think this marked the beginning of the end (so to speak) of Amanda’s pregnancy.  I was at school, trying frantically to finish up my end of the year checklist early so I could be home with Manda and start putting the finishing touches and pre-baby preparations.  We were setup for graduation (it looked like it was going to be uncharacteristically nice and comfortable on the field that evening) and I was diligently working in my office tying up loose ends.  That’s when I got the call from Manda that she was NOT feeling good, needed to get to the midwife NOW and could not drive.  So, I ran (quite literally if I recall) up to my principal to explain the situation.  She was incredibly gracious, told me to get out of here and take care of my family, they would handle graduation.

So, I ran home, picked up Amanda and drove to the Midwife.  After getting a once over there, we were sent to the hospital with the message ringing in our ears, “it may be time to go ahead and get that little guy out of there.”  So, we sat at the hospital with a mix of fear, excitement and anticipation.  In the end, they decided it was not time for us to meet C Minor yet, he would be better off cooking for a few more weeks.  We were sent home from the hospital, but Manda was now strictly on a modified bed rest order from our Midwife.  And that ladies and gentlemen, is how we spent our Fourth Wedding Anniversary.

The next two weeks or so were actually pretty fun.  Since Manda was essentially confined to the house, we spent a lot of time watching movies, hanging out and talking about how great it was going to be to finally meet C Minor.  With the help of friends and family (Kat and Eric literally helped us get the house cleaner than it has ever or will ever be again), we got all the final preparations made to the house.  We were as ready as we could be.  And over this time, we went back and forth to the Midwife, each time being told, “Well, everything looks okay.  Come back in another 2-3 days, we’ll check again, and I think we’ll likely induce then.”  So, before almost every midwife appointment, we’d load our “Go Bag” in the car (along with the other new baby / hospital essentials) and drive into Greensboro.  And every time we’d drive back home, unpack the car, and head back to the couch.  But finally, we had the final midwife appointment.  Friday, June 22nd, we were told would be the day to check into the hospital for the induction.

I know Manda really wanted to go into labor naturally, but there is something exciting about the anticipation of the countdown.  Every night, we went to bed knowing that in X more nights, we’d be going to sleep with a new member of our family.  The anticipation was insane!  The night before the 22nd, we bent the rules a little bit and went out with our friend Annalisa downtown at Natty Greene’s.  We then decided to go to one of our favorite places in the world, Green Valley Grill, for dessert (and well, bourbon for me).  That night almost escalated into an episode of How I Met Your Mother because of these events, but, well…  That kids is another story.

Now, let me tell you about how I met my son.  The day finally came, and we packed up the car and drove into GSO.  We had been trained about the proper drop off / sign in procedures weeks before in our Birthing Class, but it was surreal to actually do it.  Seeing my beautiful nine month pregnant wife walk through those big glass doors before I went to park the car, it seemed unreal that we were finally there at the moment.

Well, not finally there…  We were finally in the damn waiting room.  For what felt like an eternity.  I swear, the seasons were changing outside by the time were finally got a room.  And for the record, TMZ is AWFUL television. Just awful…

Anyway, I digress.  It would turn out that we picked an unusually busy night to have our baby, because all the rooms were full!!  In retrospect, at least we didn’t have to use a manger or anything, but again, that would be another story…  So, the room they finally moved us to was large, spacious, private (at the end of the hall), but missing many instruments and gadgets.  This meant that occasionally over the next 36 hours, the nurses or Midwife would need something, and someone would have to fetch it from another room.  We set-up for the night (that folding couch, while it looks comfy, really isn’t), they inserted a balloon into Amanda to get her dilated and kickstart the process and then essentially left us to hang out in the room.  We hadn’t eaten dinner yet and it was almost 9, so we ordered a quick meal from the hospital cafeteria and ate it while watching the episode of The Office when Pam gives birth.  You know, to set the mood.

We eventually settled in for the night, excited for the morning to arrive.  The nurses gave Amanda something to help her sleep…  Lucky her.  Nurses came in periodically throughout the night, to check on her progress.  Now, to this day, I can not for the life of me figure out how Amanda managed to sleep though all this.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s always been a fairly heavy sleeper, but I mean really?  I feel like that sort of invasion of personal space would wake anyone up, regardless of the drugs.  But she did, slept like a champ; which is good because she was gonna need her strength.  I, on the other hand, woke up every time someone entered the room.  So, add this to the fact that the bed (and I’m being fairly generous calling it a bed) was really not all that comfortable, I did not sleep very well that night.

But, the night did pass and around 5:30am we were woken up and told it was time to break her water.  For me, this was super exciting, because it meant labor was going to officially begin!  It’s worth noting here that we were really planning on Amanda having those O’Brien woman genes, and like three hours from the starting line to baby.  So, in my mind, it meant that in just a few short hours, we’d be finally holding our son in our arms.  I was so so stoked!!  Now, dear readers…  Life, being what it is, rarely works out as you expect it to.  And on that note, I feel it’s worth mentioning this.  Birth plans are lovely things, but they are like lesson plans.  You can spend all of the time in the world planning out every little detail, but you have got to be prepared on a moments notice to set all that aside and play it by ear, because the situation is sometimes just beyond your control.

So, after the balloon fell out and her water was broken, Amanda was in labor.  She’d be having Braxton Hicks contractions for sometime, so she had an idea of what to expect.  From what she said, the beginning stages were not too bad.  She was fairly dilated, her contracts were regular-ish (though not close together yet), it looked like everything was on track (and still going mostly according to plan).  So, being that I like to have things setup and orderly, I had set-up stuff in the delivery room: iPhone plugged in to play Pandora (started off the day with Amanda’s 90s alternative rock station), the encouragement shrine (ultrasound picture, onesie, Black Boss beer), snacks in with our luggage, etc.  I was doing everything I could to be ready and helpful.  Not long after labor officially started, Kenny (our doula) arrived excited and ready to go!  She then began to put together and fill the birthing pool for the later stages of the labor (all according to plan).

We’d been told often that keeping moving was really important to help labor move along quickly, and Amanda wanted to be able to be on her feet and moving around for as long as she was able.  So we walked the halls.  A lot.  They were fairly empty, because they like to keep the delivery area pretty secluded so the expecting parents, doctors and nurses can all focus on the very important tasks at hand.  So, we wandered the halls, making a big square around the area near the delivery room.  Manda brought a cup of water with her (they stress the importance of hydration a LOT during delivery) and she would sip while we walked.  In these early stages, it was really very chill.  It was just like walking around like we had for months (in order to help keep Manda / Baby C healthy with the gestational diabetes).  We would talk, mostly about how excited we were to finally be at this stage.  When she had a contraction, she would stop and lean on me until it had passed.  Manda started saying as we walked that she was feeling pretty good, that labor didn’t really seem so bad and that it didn’t look like we’d be in for much more challenges before we got to meet C Minor (seriously, everything that a mother-to-be could possibly have to go through on the path of pregnancy, Amanda had to face it).  We figured at this point, a nice, quick delivery seemed like the reward for such a difficult pregnancy.

At one point while we were walking, we turned the corner and almost walked into my grandmother.  Turns out half my family came by to see how things were going.  I honestly think they may have been fully expecting to be able to meet the newest C by this point.  They stayed for a few minutes to say hi, wish us well, but thankfully respected our space enough to say goodbye.  My Mom said they would be in the waiting room, and I told her that wasn’t necessary, it was likely to still be a little while before the birth.  She seemed a little surprised, but I assured her that we’d let them know in more than enough time to get to the hospital if it was going to happen anytime soon.

When we’d have enough for walking for the time being, we’d head back into the room where Kenny (and usually our two very friendly nurses) were waiting.  Kenny would be timing the contractions, helping massage Amanda, move her around into different laboring positions; the goal was to keep her moving, and work Baby C lower and keep labor moving forward.  At some point in the morning, as things started to get more uncomfortable, Amanda got into the tub.  She seemed to really enjoy it.  It was like a giant, really fancy kiddy pool.  She’d hang over the sides to get through contractions, and then enjoy the warm water.  At this point, we still had the upbeat music playing, even the TV on HGTV (muted) in the background.  It was getting to be more work for her, but she still totally had it under control.

About six hours into labor, feeling like she was really making progress, Manda was checked by our AMAZING Midwife only to find that it was exactly the same as when the balloon had fallen out hours ago.  I was dumbfounded.  I seriously have no other way to describe it.  It seemed completely unbelievable to me.  I mean, we’d watched the movies and the shows, and we’d seem people struggle with labor.  But Manda had those O’Brien genes!!  I fully expected the Midwife to say, “alright, looks like we’re about ready to start pushing,” and we’d have all afternoon to spend with Baby C.  I could see Amanda was disparaged as well at the news (rightfully so, she was the one doing all the work), but Kenny and our Midwife encouraged us to remain positive and just keep working.

 This is about when, as they say, shit began to get REAL.  Amanda’s contractions were getting more intense, and it was obvious to see they were becoming downright painful.  Then, to add onto that, it looked like Baby C was turned sideways!  He had facing the right way for weeks, but now that it’s go time, he decides to be mischievous and turn.  We knew this was going to make the next stages continuingly difficult as we moved forward.  As her contractions got more painful, the Midwife and Kenny had her shifting to various positions, trying to reposition Baby C and take some pressure off her back.  They’d put pressure on her hips and massage her back.  At this point, I just tried to constantly maintain some kind of physical contact with Amanda and do whatever I could.  I made many trips to get ice (on one, I actually ran into a guy from our birthing class whose wife was in labor at the same time as Manda).  As the afternoon moved on, things continued to get more intense.  Before this, I could usually find ways to make Manda laugh; but we had passed that point by now.

The next time our Midwife checked Manda, there was still no change.  At this point, they wanted to start pitocin to try to speed things up.  This was on the list, but under the “under no circumstances use” category.  But, our Midwife felt that after so many hours of labor, since we weren’t getting anywhere this was the only option.  So, they started the pitocin.  The reason we didn’t want the labor to come to this point certainly came true soon afterwards.  With the drug in her system, her body went into contraction overdrive.  They just came back to back, with increased intensity.  By this point, she had gotten out of the birthing pool and was laboring on the bed.  She looked to be in agony.  Amanda then said the words I was dreading ever hearing, “I want the epidural.”

Now, according to plan, my job was to tell her, “no, remember, you don’t want this dear.”  Well, that’s all well and good on the planning stages.  Telling it to your wife, who is all but screaming in agony, and is exhausted from almost twelve hours of active labor, is definitely harder than we anticipated.  Kenny and I convinced her once to try to go without, because if she had the epidural, then there would be no water birth.  But it got to the point where finally we locked eyes, and she told me to give her the epidural.  There was no doubt, no hesitation.  She knew what she needed to keep moving forward, and I could tell.  So, they called the anesthesiologist, and Kenny packed up the pool.

For me, this was one of the worst parts.  My wife is behind me, in obvious pain and discomfort, and in walks a blonde viking in hospital scrubs.  He then proceeds to give me the hospital spiel about the epidural…  This is what I remember from it: “I’m going to stab your wife in the spine with this giant needle, and if it doesn’t paralyze her there’s a good chance it will alleviate the pain.  Please sign here.”  So, yeah, that was terrible.  All kidding aside though, this guy was a miracle worker.  He was extremely polite, friendly, and gentle with Amanda.  And best of all, he worked fast.  Now, it didn’t immediately solve all the problems, but it gave her a break that she really needed.  After almost thirteen hours, Amanda was finally able to rest.

And just like the morning, I couldn’t.  Try as I might.  We turned the TV off, made sure the music was soft and soothing, turned most of the lights off.  Kenny and the nurses were talking softly, and she told me to sleep while I could (if only I could have taken her advice!).  I laid down on that incredibly uncomfortable couch (though, I’m sure it was more comfortable than being in labor) and failed to sleep.  I thought about Manda, I thought about what she was struggling through, I thought about how much more she’d have to go through before we got to hold our son.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep.  I tried to eat a little bit of crackers, but I don’t enjoy eating when I’m stressed, so I disregarded Kenny’s demands that I eat something.

Manda slept for awhile, until around 7:30, when our Midwife said it was finally time to start pushing.  “This is it!”  I thought to myself.  Certainly, now that we’re pushing, our little man would be here soon.  HA!!  Manda pushed, and pushed.  She changed positions, moving from side to side.  We had a new nurse by this point (shift change), who was firm but encouraging.  Kenny was on one side, I was on the other.  Helping to support her, hold a leg, help her focus or count, whatever we could do.  And our midwife was seriously elbow deep in my wife, trying to turn our stubborn son and coax him down the canal.  But he remained stubborn.  I’ll never forget this one moment, when our midwife looked at Amanda, and told her that she “really needed to focus, and really work now.  If you don’t, we’ll have no choice but to have a C-Section.”  She needed to hear this.  Our meticulously prepared birth plan had gone all but out the window, but THIS!  This last, and perhaps most important step she was unwilling to give up. She was going to have this baby not in a surgical room with some strange doctor, but here and now.

She worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, and she pushed and struggled with a strength that was almost superhuman (Wonder Woman has NOTHING on my wife). The nurse wheeled over a mirror (which, because of Up All Night, we decided we did NOT want to use) and the midwife said to use this, because you could see his head.  And she was right!!  With this to focus on, Amanda pushed a few more times, and then his head all but crowned… “Stop!”  Wait, what?!  What is this stop?  The nurses and midwife told Amanda to essentially hold it (like, the rest stop is in two more miles, just hold it) so they could set up everything for the final push.  Are you kidding me?!  Our son is right there!!  But, once they finally had everything set-up and prepared, we got the go ahead.  Amanda gave a final few pushes…

9:11pm on June 23, 2012, Henry Steven Michael was born.  And he was amazing.  He was really quiet and chill (almost unnervingly so)  when he was born, but they grabbed him and let him snuggle right away with Amanda. It was such a perfect little moment.  I swear, he just stared at us like he knew that this was where he was supposed to be, and it was where he was loved and belonged.  He was covered in blood and mess, but he was beautiful.  My wife had given birth to our son.  Once everything seemed to be going smoothly, I started spreading the word.  I texted Bethany (in Paris) and Christy, threw it on Facebook and Twitter, and went into the waiting room.  “I’m a Dad.”  It was like something from a TV show, so surreal.

My parents, Bubbi, and Matt came with me back to the room to meet Henry.  Everyone was instantly in love (I mean, how could you not be?).  We then opened the Black Boss, poured everyone a little glass, and toasted to the newest member of our family.  Through all this, Henry was cuddly and calm.  All the nurses just kept commenting on how chill he was.  We eventually left the delivery room to the Mommy / Baby room where we would spend the first night as a family of three.  By this point, it was almost 24 hours without any real food of sleep, so we were getting a little delirious.  Matt ran out and grabbed us some Cook Out (it was one of the best things we’d ever tasted) before we settled in.  That first night, was difficult, and at moments had me wondering, “Why didn’t I sleep more over the last 27 years,” but it was an amazing experience.  We were a family.  I had an amazing wife, and a beautiful baby son; I was the luckiest guy in the world.

From there, we spent two days in the hospital before going home and beginning the life of a Family of Three (plus a dog and three cats).  And my, there are some adventures there.  But well, that kids – as they say – is a different story entirely…

Henry’s Birth Story

At my 38 week appointment it was decided that I was to be induced on Friday, June 22.  The reasons for the induction were that the baby’s heart rate was increasing at each non-stress test that I had, and my blood pressure and heart rate kept increasing as well.  Therefore, it was decided by all of us (J, myself and the midwives) that I’d be induced before my high blood pressure turned into preeclampsia, and before the baby’s heart rate became too high.  I was put on a beta blocker to help lower my heart rate and blood pressure and therefore lower the baby’s heart rate, and I was given a week for it to get into my system before the induction.  During that week I had two non-stress tests, two ultrasounds and two midwife appointments to make sure that the baby and I stayed healthy.

On Friday, June 22, J and I checked into the Women’s Hospital at 7:00 pm.  Our induction was scheduled for 7:30, but the hospital was incredibly busy and we didn’t make it into a room until 8:30.  It turns out that we actually got the last room that they had – a room that they don’t usually use and that wasn’t stocked very well (our nurses kept having to leave to get things like a stethoscope and thermometer, and the equipment that monitored the baby’s heart rate).

Getting settled in the labor and delivery room.

At around 9 or 9:30 that night my midwife came in to start the induction.  I was given a heparin lock because I was Group B Strep positive and they’d need to run antibiotics throughout the labor to keep the baby safe.  In addition to having Group B Strep, I also had a resistant strain that needed a super strong antibiotic, and since I’m allergic to penicillin, I was to be given vancomycin.  After the heparin lock, my midwife put the balloon in place that would dilate my cervix.  The balloon was filled with saline and was left in overnight.  Putting in the balloon didn’t hurt, but it was pretty uncomfortable, and afterward I had a lot of cramping.  After it was inserted I was offered an Ambien to help me sleep, and I gladly accepted it.  After that, I promptly passed out and slept straight through the night until my midwife woke me up at 5:30 am.

At that time the balloon was removed and my water was broken.  Having my water broken felt extremely weird, like I was peeing myself, but not.  My midwife told me that there was a little bit of meconium in it, but that we weren’t going to worry about that at that point in time.  She then checked my cervix and told me that I was 6 cm dilated and 80% effaced.  Needless to say that I was ecstatic that I only had 4 more centimeters to go before the baby would pop out.  I was sure that things would go pretty quickly from there on out.

Almost immediately after I started contracting on my own.  The contractions weren’t bad at all and I was easily able to handle them without even breaking a sweat.  My doula arrived to our room at around 6:30 or 7:00 and started setting up the birthing pool.

Sometime that morning I was given my first round of vancomycin, and immediately I started having a reaction to it.  My scalp started itching like whoa and I started developing a rash around my hairline.  At first it didn’t hit me that I was uncontrollably raking my nails over my scalp until I could do nothing but scratch my head.  I was then given Benadryl and that put everything back to normal fairly quickly.

A few hours later my contractions started increasing in intensity and my doula suggested that J and I walk the halls to help things progress even more.  So, we walked, and walked and walked.  During contractions I would lean on J, and walk slowly while trying to stay completely relaxed.  It’s around this point in time (around 9 am I think) that I started having lower back pain.  It wasn’t bad, but enough to make me uncomfortable.

At around 10:00 am my contractions had increased even more, but I wouldn’t say that they were painful.  I was still able to relax completely while I was having one and just breathed through them.  My doula kept telling me that I was handling them beautifully and doing exactly what I needed to.  I should mention here that my doula was fantastic and really helped me stay focused.  She also really helped J help me – which I found invaluable, and I’m sure he did too.

Soon after the tub was set up and I was more than ready to climb in – I was actually really excited for it.  The warm water felt amazing, and it helped to take the edge off of the contractions more than I ever thought that it would.  If I ever have another child I’ll definitely be using the tub again.  For the next several hours I was in the water – minus several trips to the bathroom.  Between each contraction J would hand me my water cup so that I would stay hydrated.

Laboring in the tub.

Around 12:00 my midwife wanted to check my cervix to see how things had progressed.  As things had been picking up and increasing in intensity I was thinking that I had progressed and that things were moving right along as they should.  I was wrong.  I was still 6 cm dilated and 80% effaced.  7 hours of labor (going from when my water was broken) and no change at all.  That was completely disheartening to me.

During the vaginal check my midwife told me that the baby’s head was transverse – which means sideways!  The head being sideways is what was causing all of my back labor.  The baby wasn’t completely sunnyside up, but had his head turned just enough so that things were painful and slow to progress.

After checking my cervix my midwife told me that she’d give me a couple more hours to progress on my own, but if things continued to stay the same she wanted to start pitocin – which you all know that I didn’t want that to happen.

For the next two hours things increased and even started to become painful.  The pain was coming from the back labor that I was having – oh my god, that shit was intense!    I was having a harder and harder time relaxing through the contractions, and I was quickly losing my sense of humor that I’d maintained all day.  I was now moaning through the contractions and tensing up during them.  My doula was squeezing my hips while I was in the tub, while my midwife used massage oil that my sister had made to massage my shoulders and back during the contractions.  At some point while I was in the tub I threw up everything that was in my stomach and started thinking that this whole labor thing was too much for me to handle and that I didn’t want to do it anymore.  Needless to say that I wasn’t being reasonable anymore.

My back labor was getting worse and worse and at around 2:00 or 2:30, I wanted out of the tub.  I got out and went to the bathroom and almost started crying while I was on the toilet because of how much my back and hips hurt.  I remember being in the bathroom and looking in the mirror at myself and thinking that I didn’t want to do this anymore.  After I got out of the bathroom I crawled onto the bed and I hung out there for a while, moaning and slowly losing my composure.  While I was on the bed my midwife wanted to check my cervix again, and I was still exactly the same – 6 cm dilated and 80% effaced.  I was started on pitocin at around 2:30.  I don’t remember being hooked up to the stuff.  I was pretty out of it from the pain, but I do remember that the pitocin really made it all worse.

Pitocin is miserable – which is the biggest understatement that I could ever make.  I was completely justified to be afraid of it and not want it.  My back felt like it was being ripped in two before it was started and then it felt even worse – I have no comparison to demonstrate how bad it actually was, you’ll just have to take my word for it.  On top of the back labor, I was also starting to have contractions on top of contractions – as in several in a row with no break in between.  It’s at this point in time that things get a little hazy to me and my memory of events is blurred.  Sometime after the pitocin was administered my midwife checked my cervix once again and I was then dilated to 7 cm and 80% effaced.

After all of those hours of labor and my back feeling like it was being broken in two and then some, and I only had progressed one measly centimeter, I lost all of my motivation and will power to continue on the natural route and I broke down and asked for the epidural.  I actually had to ask for it for over an hour.  At first I was talked into trying nubain instead of the epidural, and I did.  I was given it very quickly and it did help.  I was able to relax and breathe for a little while, but it wore off quickly and I was afraid to ask for more.  After the nubain wore off the contractions were back to being incredibly painful (I should note that the actual contraction wasn’t horrible, it hurt, but it was manageable – it was just the back labor that completely derailed me, at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

I asked for the epidural again, and J and my doula tried to talk me out of it (they were trying to remind me of my birth plan – but I had already given up on that.  I remember withering in pain and snapping out of it long enough to make eye contact with J – glaring at him – and demanding that I NEEDED an epidural and I needed it now.  Apparently that got my point across.  I’m not sure how long it took for the anesthesiologist to get there, but it felt like it took forever, J thinks that I got the epidural around 5:30 (12 hours into labor).

I always assumed that an epidural would get rid of labor pain immediately.  But, that’s not the case at all.  I continued to wither in pain for what felt like an eternity.  And, of course, the epidural only worked on my left side… Once it started to kick in, my doula started taking down the birthing pool and that’s the only time that I got upset about the fact that I had an epidural.

Sleeping after the epidural.

I think that I was given a low dose of the epidural because I never did lose the ability to move my legs.  They were difficult to move, but I could still move them.  My hips also continued to hurt even after it was in place and my left side was definitely more numb than my right.  My midwife had my lay on my right side to help draw the epidural down to that side, which kinda helped.  Eventually I was able to relax, and then I passed out and slept for the next several hours until I woke up feeling tons of pressure.  I was checked again, but wasn’t complete yet – but I wasn’t told how far I had progressed.  I dozed off and on until I was told that it was time to push.

Again, things are kinda hazy for me during this time, but I’m told that I started pushing around 7:30 pm.  I was averaging 3 pushes per contraction.  Because the baby’s head was stilled turned in the wrong direction my midwife would have me move all round during pushing to try and get the baby to turn.  My midwife had me push three times for one contraction and then rest through the next contraction.  After a while of doing that, she had me turn onto one side and push for a few contractions, and then switch sides and push for a few contractions.  I repeated that for quite a while.  Pushing was difficult for me as I couldn’t really feel where to push, so I definitely had a cheering section for when I was doing it correctly and a very stern midwife for when I started to get tired and not push as well.

I was completely oblivious, but apparently everyone else was getting concerned that a C-Section was going to be needed because the baby wasn’t moving down.  I was told later that he got stuck on my pubic bone and my midwife was actually reaching her hands inside me to slowly move the baby into the proper position, thankfully I had an epidural and didn’t feel that at all (the baby also still has a bruise on the back of his head from where he got stuck).  I continued to push and push and push, and at some point they wheeled the mirror over to help see how to push.  I didn’t think I would like it, but it was actually really cool to see the baby’s head move down slowly, and it was actually a very effective tool.

I was finally finished pushing at 9:11 pm when my baby was born.  He came out very chill and calm and didn’t cry at all, but his eyes were opened and he was moving, so the not crying didn’t bother me so much.  My midwife cleaned out his nose and mouth with the bulb syringe before she plopped him on my stomach and I grabbed him and held him skin to skin – marveling at my baby for over an hour.  While holding him, J and I decided to name him Henry.  We were really leaning towards the name Asher before he was born, but the name Henry seemed to fit him so much better.  I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful it is to hold your baby after spending hours and hours in labor – and it is true that you forget all the pain that you were in the moment that they’re born.

While I was holding Henry, I delivered the placenta – which I didn’t even feel come out.  After that my midwife informed me that I had a second degree tear – meaning that the skin and muscles of my perineum tore and had to be stitched up.  It seemed like my midwife spent a long time stitching me up and when I commented on it, she told me that “she’s making it pretty.”  I have no idea how many stitches she put in me, and I don’t wanna know.  All I know is that my lady parts are still sore, but they are getting better.

After an hour or so of holding my son, he was taken to be weighed and given his vitamin K shot.  I was really curious how much he  would weigh because of the gestational diabetes, but he turned out to be a “normal” size of 7 lbs 10 ounces, and he was 19.75 inches long.  A perfect size in my opinion.

Henry being weighed.

A few hours after Henry was born we were moved into the Mother/Baby room and my family of three settled in for our first night together.

Loving on my little man.

I know that this post is incredibly long, but a lot happened in over 16 hours (over 24 if you count from when we checked in).  All in all it was a great experience and something that I will remember all of my life.  I felt completely supported the whole time.  J was wonderful at his job as my labor partner and his sense of humor really kept me going through those tougher times.

I’m completely in love with my family and couldn’t be happier.  I have so much more to post, but I’ll save it for another day.

Settling in at home with my new family.

My Birth Plan

As I mentioned yesterday, my midwife and I sat down and went over my birth plan.  She pointed out some things that the hospital wouldn’t allow (such as the doula being in the operating room in the event of a C-Section) and somethings that she would advise we do (such as not waiving the vitamin K shot).  I’m meeting with a pediatrician next week and I’m going to ask about alternative vaccination schedules because I don’t want any vaccines given at birth – but I’m not listing that on here until I chat with the doctor.

So, without further ado, here’s are my birth wishes:

Labor:

  • I would like to be able to eat and drink throughout labor, as desired.
  • Please do not administer an IV or heparin lock unless there is a clear medical indication that it is necessary.
  • Please limit the number of vaginal exams and inform me before doing one.  I would not like to know how I’ve progressed, unless I specifically ask.
  • I would like intermittent monitoring of my baby.  I would not like to be restricted to the bed if at all possible.
  • Please do not permit observers such as interns, students or unnecessary staff, into the room without my permission.
  • Please knock before entering the room.

Labor Induction / Augmentation:

  • I would like to avoid induction unless it’s medically necessary.
  • I do not want to discuss induction prior to 42 weeks, unless it is medically relevant.
  • Please do not offer me anesthesia/ analgesia unless I ask for it.  I’m planning a natural birth.
  • I would like to avoid pitocin throughout the entire birth process.

Delivery:

  • I would like to wait until I feel the urge to push before beginning the pushing process.  I would like to push or not push according to my instincts and would prefer to not have guidance or coaching in this effort, unless I ask for help.
  • I would like to deliver in a birthing pool, and have made arrangements to have one at the birth.
  • If I can’t deliver in the birthing pool for whatever reason, I do not want a vacuum or forceps assisted birth.
  • If I can’t deliver in the birthing pool for whatever reason, I would like a warm compress or oil applied to my perineum to help prevent tearing.
  • I refuse to have an episiotomy.   I would rather tear than have an episiotomy.

After birth:

  • I would like my baby to be on my stomach/chest immediately after delivery.
  • I would like to breastfeed soon after birth.
  • Please allow the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before it is cut.
  • My husband would like to cut the cord.
  • If I’m given an IV or heparin lock I would like it removed as soon as possible after delivery.

Newborn Care:

  • I would like to hold my baby skin to skin during the first few hours to help regulate my baby’s body temperature and to start the bonding process.
  • I would like to hold my baby through the delivery of the placenta and any repair procedures.
  • Please evaluate my baby on my chest or abdomen.
  • If my baby must be taken for evaluation, my husband will accompany our baby at all times.
  • We choose to waive the administration of eye antibiotics.
  • We do NOT want our baby to be circumcised at the hospital.

Cesarean Section Delivery:

  • I would like to avoid a cesarean delivery if at all possible.
  • If a cesarean is necessary, I expect to be fully informed of all procedures and actively participate in the decision making.
  • I would like my husband to be present during the surgery.
  • I would like to be the first to hold my baby after delivery.
  • If possible, I would like for my baby to be assessed while I’m holding it.

 

This plan fits nicely onto one page (once you mess with the margins and font size), and I’m really rather proud of it.  It doesn’t have everything on there, but it definitely has the major points, and I think it gets across what I want and what I don’t want.