Arlo's Birth Story
My due date was September 18, 2018. Many significant events in my life have happened on the 18th of one month or another, so I thought it was a good date to have him. I was fortunate enough to have a relatively easy pregnancy, in the physical sense anyway, and I was in no hurry to speed up his arrival. I cherished every kick and punch I got from my son while he was in my tummy, and I recognized that I’d never be pregnant for the first time again! So I did my best to embrace every day and not let any moment escape my recognition and gratitude for it.
The 18th came and went. Then, suddenly it got harder to embrace the moments! I surely didn’t want him to come early, but my planning brain said, “Ok! The timer went off, whats the hold up?!” I had an occasional contraction here and there, but I was still sleeping like a baby… (Um. Who came up with that phrase by the way? Babies sleep heavily, yes, but in very short spurts!) I was still sleeping like a rock. (What?) I was still sleeping REALLY well. And so the days kept passing and everyone kept encouraging me to rest because he would be here before I knew it! I tried to rest, but guys, you cant stockpile sleep. If only!
On Monday, September 24, I started feeling more intense contractions, but only a few here and there. Even so, I was sure that he was coming that night! So sure, in fact, that when Chad and I went to bed, I cried, mourning our last night of just the two of us. As excited as I was to meet my son, I already missed having my husband all to myself. That night was the first night I got shotty sleep due to that potential labor action, and yet I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling normal again. Around mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the contractions started up again. They were still spaced apart but more consistent than before. Again, my hopes rose, but over the last week plus I had been disappointed so many times that I was actually sure he wasn’t going to come that night and cried about that! (Enter eye roll and a sympathetic pat on the back for Chad.)
I slept like crap, but Wednesday morning came and I was pissed! I thought, screw it! I’m done resting. So. I went back to work. (Kind of.) I called my mom and suggested we go down to the shop and do her roots. And we did. Mom joked with me saying that the baby won’t come until I lost my sense of humor about it. And I had! About halfway through her root touch-up, I got slammed with a hard contraction. Heat radiated through my stomach and back, and I sat down to recover. It was about 1 o’clock at that point. I washed her hair and got hit with another hard contraction. We left with my mom’s hair still wet, agreeing to finish the job at my house so I could be a little more comfortable. We stopped at Panera to pick up lunch on the way and by the time we got back to my house, contractions were coming consistently but at irregular time intervals. I used an app to track them, so I would know when they were 3-5 minutes apart and could go to the hospital. My mom stayed with me awhile and helped me ride out a few waves, but when they started tapering off again, she headed home and told me to let her know if and when she needed to come back. I had also been in touch with a few friends around that time as well, initially optimistic and confident that now finally, it was happening! Then that evening when the contractions slowed, I texted them, “Nevermind! Another false alarm.” The contractions were still coming, but the times were all over the place. 22 minutes between, then 4 minutes between, then 6, then 35, then 4 again, etc. And they varied in intensity. Some were totally tolerable, and others had me curling my toes and humming to get through. If I held still, I could ward off the hard ones. But if I twisted my body or moved from one side to the other, I could trigger them.
Around midnight, Chad suggested we go to bed and try to get some sleep. I agreed, but laying down resulted in the most painful of the contractions, so as soon as one hit I knew there was no way I’d get any sleep. So I snuck downstairs, turned on Gilmore Girls, lit my pumpkin candle, and bounced on my exercise ball behind the couch. I rested my head on my hands on the couch and dozed a couple of times, but woke myself up either with a coming contraction, or because I had started to roll off my ball. When the hard contractions hit, I relaxed my stomach forward as much as I could and hummed until it was over. I’m not sure why, but those two “techniques” helped the pain more than anything else.
Around 3 o’clock AM, I thought I’d go crazy if something didn’t change. Progress, or don’t! Let’s get this show on the road, or let me sleep! (Who am I talking to?) Desperately, I started trying to manipulate the timing of the contractions by abruptly moving positions. Standing up quickly. Twisting to one side. Laying down. (Ow ow ow!) I continued to use my timer app, and as soon as the “average” time said 5 minutes, I made my way upstairs. It was a little bit of a cheat. Technically, contractions are supposed to come every 3-5 minutes, for at least an hour before going to the hospital. But at this point, I was starting to feel pressure “down there,” and thought surely… surely I’d be admitted if we went to the hospital now!
3:30 AM and I woke Chad up and told him it was time to go. He suggested calling the hospital first, just to be sure. So I called. When the on-call midwife answered, I had to hand Chad the phone to get through a contraction, then got on the phone with her, explained what was going on and asked her if I could come in. She told me that sure, I can come in, but I likely wouldn’t be admitted. She said she could tell by my voice that I wasn’t far enough along. I hung up and I cried. Chad brought the ball upstairs and I continued to bounce on the edge of the bed. I had given up timing anything, and just let the contractions come. Maybe an hour later, Chad said enough was enough, and started loading the car with our hospital gear. He told me later that I was barely coherent as I bounced away on that freaking exercise ball, and he started to think I was going to fall and hurt myself. I wasn’t responding very well and was nodding off in my upright position even when he was talking to me.
When everything was in the car (we almost forgot the car seat), Chad helped me down the stairs and at this point I couldn’t tell if I was having back to back contractions, or just seriously long ones. In hindsight, it seems clear that they were one on top of another and we couldn’t possibly be turned away at the hospital, but on our way there Chad prepared me for the worst. He said we should prepare ourselves for if we were turned away. I told him I wasn’t leaving the hospital without some pain medication or at least a sleeping aid. I was so tired. And I was so discouraged. Fully expecting to be turned away at the door, I felt defeated. I thought, yeah I’m not cut out for this. I mean, if I’m not even 3 cm dilated, then I truly just can not handle this labor thing, and I sure won’t be able to get my son out on my own. I felt like such a wimp.
On our way to the hospital, Chad called my mom and told her the situation and that she could meet us there or wait until we knew more. It was about 5:15AM when we got to Lovelace Women’s Hospital and parked right in front of the double doors to triage. I had to stop twice in the parking lot to catch my breath. Once inside, we were told we were in the wrong place and to go down the hall and up to level 3 where they’d get me checked in and find out how far along I was. They offered me a wheelchair but I figured I could make it a little further and Chad and I headed toward the elevators.
Once upstairs, the on-call midwife who I had talked to on the phone looked at me doubtfully and said, “Are you Bree?” in an almost accusatory tone, as if I shouldn’t be there. She handed me a cup and told me they needed a urine sample. Seriously? I took an eternity in the bathroom and (TMI*) things were getting messy down there and I didn’t know to expect that, so I in the midst of everything, I thought maybe something was wrong. When I came out of the bathroom, Chad was signing paperwork and my mom was just arriving. She helped me out of my clothes and into a gown before the on-call nurse came in. She said she was going to check to see how dilated I was and that if they admitted me, she’d show me where to find my room. She also made sure to tell me that this exam wouldn’t normally hurt, but given my state would actually be incredibly painful! (She was such a joy, I tell you.) So she checked me and then, focusing more on pulling off her gloves than on me, said, “Ok so, you have no cervix.” …
… blank stares from me, Chad, and my mom.
“What does that mean?”
“You’re 10 centimeters, it’s time to push.” My mom’s hand flew to her mouth.
"Mmmk, but what can you give me though?” Literally did ask that.
Turns out it was too late for any significant pain help. They did hook up my IV and gave me some sort of something that was supposed to make me feel like I’d had a couple of margaritas. But they could only give me a half dose because they didn’t want it to affect Arlo (and neither did I.)
Anyway, you better believe that midwife just pushed my whole bed into the delivery room. I was done walking.
I scooted from one bed to the other once we arrived in the delivery room. The on-call midwife settled in against the wall with her arms crossed and told me that some women find relief in the pushing stage, but for her… it was the worst part. In the moment I think I was too out of it to realize just how big of a (turd?) she was being. But Chad told me afterwards that he was pissed at her from the second we got to the hospital. Thankfully, a short while later she said she had to go do her rounds and that she would be back. She never came back. It was maybe 6:30AM at that point.
There was another nurse in the room that was monitoring me and the baby. She was much more pleasant and encouraging. It was a weird in-between time. Contractions were still coming, and the nurse said I could push “if I wanted.” So I guess I kind of did? Chad was by my head and my mom was next to him farther down by my belly. They were wonderful. I always said I wanted Chad and my mom there because Chad is my confidence and my mom is my comfort. And they fully were those things and more through the whole process. At 7AM, there was a shift change at the hospital, and angel Maria came through the doors. She got right down to business and said, “Bree, I know you’re tired. Let’s get this done.”
Up until this point I had been on my back in the bed. Maria suggested we switch positions, so I turned so that I was leaning over the back of the bed. I’ve been told by other mom’s that this was the best position because gravity helps things along and it’s most natural. Not so for me. My legs barely held me up, so I switched again pretty quickly. The next position was the hot ticket for me. Maria got out a bar that I put my feet up on and she hooked a towel on the top portion of it and handed me the ends. Glory!
First of all, let me say that the pushing stage was absolutely a relief. It felt good. It felt productive. And especially in this new position, I got to be in control. When a contraction came, I pushed my legs against the bar and pulled as hard as I could on the towel. Maria and my mom helped lift my legs more, and Chad pushed my back up higher. With each contraction, I pushed as hard and as long as I could 4 times. In between, I rested. Chad gave me sips of water and wiped my forehead and chest with a cold washcloth. He tucked my hair back if it got in my face. Each time I stopped pushing, I’d look at my mom and there were tears in her eyes and the look on her face was a mix between elation and horror. (haha!) During each rest, Maria would tell me, “We can see this much of his head! Now we can see this much! Keep going! You’ve got this, Bree!” Seriously, she was incredible. Her updates and encouragement, and actually, her use of my name helped me stay motivated.
At 8:47AM, Arlo came. During that last set of contractions, I was at the end of my rope. I thought if I stopped pushing, I wouldn’t be able to start again. So I pushed my usual 4 times… and then 5, and then 6… I actually don’t know how many times I pushed, just that I felt like I was splitting in half (sorry, but it’s true!) and my ears were ringing and my eyes were shut tight. Finally, I heard the voices of my mom, Maria, and the delivery mid-wife coming through the haze in my brain. They were saying, “Bree! Wait, wait! You can stop! Wait! Look!” I shakily came to and looked down where I saw my son’s face. Maria told me to pick him up, so I did. Magically, I was able to halfway deliver him myself! My mom somehow thought to take a picture of me the moment I got Arlo to my chest and my face reflects the shock and relief and joy and disbelief I felt in that moment.
Chaos followed as someone started rubbing Arlo down to clean him and get some pink to his little purple body. Someone else started jabbing on my stomach (ew.) and then suddenly Arlo was off my chest getting his little tiny mouth and nose suctioned and cleaned of any amniotic fluid. It was only a minute later that they put him back on my chest. Then the nurse told me she had to give me a few stitches. There was commotion all around and I just kept looking at Arlo and whispering, “Just a few more minutes. Then it’s you and me.” I was getting frustrated that there were so many distractions around when I just wanted to soak up my son. My mom was crying, Chad was crying. And then! The nurses cleaned up, covered me, rolled in a breakfast cart for me, and left.
Arlo and I spent the next hour skin to skin. He basically army crawled up my body and started to nurse on his own, which I am so, so thankful for! I know it doesn’t happen so quickly or easily for others and the gift is not lost on me. Once Arlo had eaten, Chad held his son for the first time. (Tears!) Grandma took a turn too, and then Chad went to go get his mom and my brother, who had been in the waiting room since 6:30 or so. They each took a turn holding Arlo, and I started in on my waffles and coffee, filled to the brim with joy!
We stayed in the delivery room for another 2 hours before being transferred to our overnight recovery room. Maria came in before that to help me go to the bathroom. (May write a postpartum recovery post later about all the rough crap no one talks much about. We’ll see.) I held Arlo and the two of us were pushed in a wheelchair, followed by our family, through the hospital to our new room. Everyone who we passed gave their congratulations and I was nearly laughing. We did it, we did it, we did it! And now our son is in my arms and he is beautiful.