This post has been a long time coming. Needless to say, I’ve been wanting to write Rachel’s birth story for almost 5 months 😐 (being a mom is so much work!) but I’ve finally gotten around to it! And what better time to release it than right before Mother’s Day.
So let’s jump right on in shall we?
Disclaimer: shit is about to get real here and might not be suitable for young children… or some adults 😉
Most of you know I was put on modified bed rest at 32 weeks due to a preterm labour scare because I started having contractions and dilated 2cm. Luckily, that did not progress but it was really freaking scary as I was at risk for preterm labour.
Fast forward 4 and half boring weeks until my 36 week appointment where I was given the OK by my OB to come off bed rest. I was stoked! So stoked in fact that I had the sudden urge to clean the entire house (including vacuuming) which I can now look back on as totally “nesting.”
The following day, I went out christmas shopping with my dad. We headed to the mall where we split up. I went to Osh Kosh to pick out a baby outfit for my friend and while I was walking around I felt a sudden gush of fluid leaking down my leg. It thought I peed myself – which was confusing because I had just gone to the bathroom…
As I continued to walk around the store the fluid kept leaking and no matter how hard I kegeled, I just couldn’t stop it.
That could have been my water breaking. I quickly paid for my tiny outfit and walked out pretending like nothing had happened. I texted Mike to tell him that I thought my water just broke and then got in the car.
I told my dad that I thought my water broke and he immediately started looking around the car for pads. “Oh, no I don’t think I have any pads for you!”. Haha, oh dads.
We called Mike and he was a little confused: “How can you be unsure if your water broke? Like isn’t it a big deal?” I had no idea, this was the first time it’s happened to me. I could have just peed my pants. In fact, at that point of my pregnancy it was quite possible that I peed my pants. I told myself that was probably it. I thought I should probably just go home, but Mike and my dad insisted that I call labour and delivery before heading home and they suggested I come in to get checked.
Meanwhile, Mike is freaking out at work (because at the time he was still working in Toronto) and if I was in labour he wasn’t sure he was going to make it in time. And of course there was the very real possibility that he could be leaving work early because I peed my pants…
Going in to get checked, the doctors and nurses assured me that it didn’t sound like my water had broken (at this time, I was not having any contractions) and that it was totally possible I peed my pants. Now I am feeling like a complete idiot, bringing my mom (who has now arrived) and my dad to the hospital with me and having Mike leave work early.
They did a swab and this “ferning” test but (thankfully) no cervix check. The 2 tests came back positive for amniotic fluid meaning my water HAD indeed broke, but was likely a small leak and that’s why it wasn’t more dramatic. I felt like a little less of an idiot now, but the nerves were starting to set in.
They gave me the option to be induced right away or go home and see if labour progressed on its own and come back the next morning. We opted for option B. I didn’t have anything with me at the hospital and I really wanted to go into labour naturally if possible.
Unfortunately, nothing changed overnight so we headed to the hospital the next morning to be induced. I wasn’t sure what to think about being induced… It definitely wasn’t on my birth plan! But I was soooo ready to have this baby. I think my biggest concern was that I was going to miss my opportunity to get the epidural (which turned out to be a very legitimate concern).
We started the IV of oxytocin at 9am and silly me believed that I would have this baby by 1pm (haha). The contractions started slowly coming on (and I mean slowly). It was actually super boring and uncomfortable for the first few hours. I was hooked up to IV’s and heart rate monitors for myself and the baby, I had to pee every 5 minutes because of all the fluid they were giving me in the IV, and I wasn’t allowed to eat anything once I started the IV so I was starving!! I remember Mike and I were listening to christmas music in our giant delivery room, just the 2 of us. We did have a lovely nurse Chris, though, who made us feel very comfortable.
By 1pm or so I had finally gotten to 3cm. The contractions were becoming stronger but still bearable. The nurse asked me if I wanted Nubain (a pain drug) to help with the pain until I was little more dilated and could get the epidural. I decided to try it (which I now regret haha) because 1. it’s an intramuscular injection and it hurt like F going in and 2. it made feel a little “out of it.”
After taking the shot, I could barely feel the contractions anymore. I decided to go in the tub while Mike went to get something to eat. I was so relaxed, it was awesome… Until someone came rolling in next door SCREAMING so loud it scared the shit out of me! They were clearly in active labour (and I found out later they were rushed in from a midwife delivery) so they did not have any drugs (but of course I didn’t know that). All I could think was that maybe that’s how much it hurts even WITH an epidural!?? I could literally see my heart rate rising. I tried to take a few deep breaths and relax again and as I did, I felt this huge POP and a gush of fluid released from me.
What the F was that!!?? I was freaking out! And of course, I was naked in a tub with no way of texting Mike or getting the nurse. And then I felt it: the contractions had come back, and they had come back with a vengeance! They were waaaay stronger than before and that Nubain drug wasn’t doing shit.
Luckily Mike came back from lunch not long after and I’m like “something happened. Something gross came out of me but I’m too afraid to look.” He said there was fluid and blood in the tub. I told him to go and get the nurse and tell her I want the epidural NOW.
The nurse came back and they got me out of the tub and back to my bed where my contractions were getting a lot stronger. She checked my cervix and I was at 4cm. She called the anesthesiologist but he was busy and wasn’t available immediately.
OMG, my worst nightmare is coming true. He’s not going to get here on time and I am going to have to deliver this baby without drugs. I can’t do it.
The contractions were getting stronger and closer together. They were literally the worst thing ever. Holy shit. Although I can’t remember the pain exactly, I just know they sucked. A LOT. All I could think about was when the anesthesiologist was going to come – hoping and praying it would be any minute.
Luckily, he showed up about a half hour after we called. He was an older man who was super nice but I was not in any mood to chat – all I wanted was drugs and I wanted them RIGHT NOW!!
He asked me if I wanted to go over the risks of the epidural and I quickly answered: “No. I’ve already read up on all of them. Let’s just get started.”
I didn’t realize this, but when you get an epidural, the area the doctor is working needs to be completely sterile, so there was quite a bit of setup and prep that needed to happen before he could even put the needle in. You also have to be sitting on the bed, hunched over while they do the procedure (and for those of you who have had a baby, you will know that this is literally the LAST position you want to be in while in active labour).
After what felt like an eternity of preparation (and me digging my nails into Mike’s hands as hard as I could so he could feel an ounce of what I was feeling) the epidural was finally ready to go in. He sterilized my entire back and warned me that the freezing would be the worst part. Honestly, I didn’t feel a thing. He probably could have cut off my right arm and I wouldn’t have noticed at that point.
Just as he finished injecting the epidural, I had the sudden and very strong urge to push. I was still sitting hunched over on the bed and I did NOT want to be in that position any longer. I needed to get this baby out, and get it out now! The contractions were sooo strong and so close together I can’t even explain to you what it felt like. Just imagine having the worst cramps of your life and then times that by 1,000,000.
At this point, it had been only 1 hour since I asked for the epidural -so to say things progressed quickly would be understatement. Once I was able to lay down the nurse checked me and I was already at 10cm, ready to go. I had experienced the “transition” part of labour sitting as still as possible while the doctor put a giant needle in my back… Let’s just say I hope I never EVER have to do that again!
At this point it still felt like the epidural hadn’t started working yet, or at least it was only numbing one side. The nurse rolled me onto my side to allow the epidural to flow to the other side. I could still feel the contractions and they were so strong, but they were getting shorter and further apart and eventually, I could no longer feel anything.
PRAISE THE LORD! This was actually the best thing ever (I mean besides having the baby). I could have married that anesthesiologist. I remember at one point being very serious about just having an epidural all the time. It was sooo good.
After that, the nurse allowed me to rest for an hour before we started pushing. I actually fell asleep. If you would have told me that 20 minutes earlier I would have punched you in the face. Thank god for epidurals!!!
We got everything ready to start pushing around 5pm. I was to push when I started feeling the contractions come on… which proved to be really hard when you can’t feel anything. It’s also hard to know how to push when you have an epidural and I am sure that contributed a lot to why I had to push for so long.
After the first hour of pushing and not really getting anywhere, I let the epidural wear off a little so I could feel more (there is a baseline level of medication being delivered, with a button to increase at certain increments. I stopped pushing the button). It made a big difference. I could feel when the contractions were coming on and knew when and how to push without the pain – if that makes any sense.
I’ll also add that you want a very supportive team going into the pushing process – it gets HARD! and it’s exhausting. And you need people telling you how great a job you’re doing and lying to you by saying you’re almost there. (Trust me, it helps!)
My nurse and Mike were amazing during this process. I really wanted to have the baby before she finished her shift at 7pm so I tried my very hardest! She had been by my side helping me all day – it’s the least I could do. And by 6:45ish, the head was almost out! The nurse got the doctor and we were ready to push the rest of the baby out.
Mike wanted to catch the baby, so he suited up and I took another hit of the epidural (I wanted to make sure I was good and frozen before the stitches). The nurse coached me on when to push and when I did, I felt like Rachel literally went flying out! (which is the weirdest feeling in the world by the way). Mike caught her and had no idea what to do with her and just threw her on me. It all happened so fast that nobody said anything. I looked down looking for a penis and was SOO surprised to see that it wasn’t there! “It’s a girl” I yelled. I remember her beautiful eyes staring up at me as she laid on my chest. It was the most amazing moment.
However, she wasn’t crying. And that was making me really nervous. The nurses quickly took her away to the warming bed where they rubbed her vigorously and used a CPAP machine to push air into her lungs. And then I heard the cry. I was still so scared that she wasn’t going to be ok. Her oxygen sats were in the 60s so they called in the paediatrician to check on her while they gave her oxygen.
Meanwhile I’m watching this all from the bed while the OB pulls out my placenta (which is huge by the way!) and starts to stitch me up (I ended up having a 2nd degree tear) and Mike paced around the room. The doctor reassured me that the baby was going to be fine and that put me at ease.
Her oxygen sats went up into the 90s shortly after and the nurses cleaned her up, weighed her and measured her and put a diaper on her. Then she was ready to come back to lay on my chest. It was so surreal. There she was. My beautiful, healthy baby girl. She was 6 lbs 0oz and 19 inches long. She was born at 6:49pm on December 14th, 2018 at 36 weeks and 4 days.
The moment she arrived will be a moment I never forget. I was just so happy she was ok. And I could not believe I had a GIRL!!! I was convinced it was a boy almost the whole time. The whole experience was just so crazy.
We were so excited to call our families to tell them. I remember my mom crying as I told her and hearing Mike’s mom on the phone: “OH MY GOD!!”
After we were finished making all of our calls, it was time to try breastfeeding. This was probably the thing I was most nervous about before having a baby, and for good reason – it can be really hard!
She wasn’t latching, which isn’t uncommon with premature babies. We tried without success for almost a half hour with nurses squeezing my boobs so hard trying to get the juices flowing and it was so painful. We ended up expressing a tiny amount of colostrum into a little cup where she was able to drink some of it. At that point I was still very optimistic about the breastfeeding and still full of adrenaline.
We were wheeled off to the maternity ward where my parents and sister and Mike’s mom and dad came to meet Rachel for the very first time. At that time we still didn’t have a name picked out but we were between Rachel and one other.
Everyone commented on how beautiful she was. I remember her making this really cute purring noise as she slept. After everyone left Mike and I ordered pizza and had champagne. That night we didn’t get much sleep. The nurses would come in to check on us every couple hours, they would help me try breastfeeding again and press super hard on my uterus :\ (Ps. breastfeeding gives you the WORST cramps the first few weeks after giving birth – I just found that really weird).
I’m not going to lie, the first few nights and even month were really hard. We had a hard time breastfeeding because she was so small and a bit premature and I had no idea what I was doing. At the hospital I would spend 30 minutes or more trying to breastfeed and then pumping just to get 3mL of colostrum for her to drink. A few times we had to mix it with sugar water so that she could get a bit more calories in.
The breastfeeding was soooo hard. I felt defeated and like a failure as a mother. I would try her on the breast for 10 minutes or so and then pump for 20 minutes and then feed her with a syringe for another 20 minutes the first few days until we moved to bottle feeding. It wasn’t until 4 days or so that my milk came in and I was able to feed her a more substantial amount. I had no idea how hard this was going to be.
I remember 3 days after giving birth we were going in for our lactation consultant meeting and I started crying uncontrollably. All I wanted to do was make sure she was safe and healthy and being able to feed her was sooo hard. I was worried I would never get the hang of it, that I wasn’t making enough milk and I was starving her.
Needless to say that was not the case. I felt better after seeing the lactation consultant. She reassured us that we were doing a good job and that it would come. She showed us how to use a nipple shield (which is kind of like the end of the bottle and you put it on your nipple so it’s easier for the baby to latch and suck) and that seemed to help at the time.
We went home and tried on our own and I still had a really hard time. There were a lot of tears between the both of us. Luckily Rachel was doing well with the bottle but having to pump and feed her made each feeding take over an hour – and then it would be time for her to eat again. We had a bit of success with her latching with the nipple shield, but it still wasn’t perfect and only worked maybe a handful of times.
We went back to the lactation consultant and again felt reassured that we would get it – only to go home and try and try again with no luck. I was ready to give up on breastfeeding. I now understood why some women chose to formula feed right off the bat, because breastfeeding is very HARD!
My nipples would hurt so bad every time I pumped or tried to feed her, I would almost cry. I ended up filling a prescription for nipple cream and it helped a lot.
Eventually, we went back to the lactation consultant (this was maybe 7 or 10 days after she was born) and I realized that I was holding her a little awkwardly while trying to get her to latch and was being really anxious and tense every time I fed her. We adjusted my feeding position and I tried to relax as much as possible and she finally got it! She was breastfeeding without the shield, on her own! I couldn’t believe it.
From then on, she was able to latch and feed, but because she was so small and premature, I still had to pump and “top her up” after every feed. So yes, this meant after 45 minutes of her feeding, I would have to pump for 10 minutes and then feed her again for 15-20 minutes. I can’t tell you how many times I would almost fall asleep feeding her in the night. Because she had to eat every 2 hours or so, she would eat for 1 and then we would sleep for 1 and then back up again to start the process all over again.
The first month made for very long nights and short days. It was very isolating because it was so hard to go anywhere without having to add an extra hour on to feed and pump and find somewhere to do that. Luckily we have a lot of family and friends in town who would open their homes to us when we were out, because trying to do that in a public place just wasn’t possible.
I was also very lucky that my husband was home with me for the first 3 weeks as these were definitely the hardest looking back. Once he went back to work however, things were not good. Mike worked a lot of night shifts and Rachel would stay up screaming all night and would only sleep in bed with me (which was uncomfortable and made me anxious). It was extremely difficult.
I now know why postpartum depression is so prevalent. You’re isolated. You’re tired. If you’re breastfeeding – you’re always starving. And your baby is constantly screaming at you. Somedays I don’t even know how I made it out alive.
But it got better. Everyone told me it would get better, and in the moment it’s hard to believe them – but it does.
Mike got a new job and no longer had to work nights, which made a HUGE difference and I am so grateful for it. We got help from friends and family as much as we could and we started sleep training once she had gained enough weight. We started to get into a routine and day by day, things got easier.
Today we are doing well. I’m glad I stuck it out with the breastfeeding because it’s much easier now – but I definitely don’t judge any moms that decided to go with formula because I know it doesn’t work out for everyone.
I love spending every waking minute with Rachel and I kinda miss her when she’s sleeping, haha – I have a feeling this will change 😉
Being a mom is freaking hard but it really is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I don’t know how I could love something as much as I love her but I do, and it scares the shit out of me.
If you are a mom I have the utmost respect for you and you deserve to be celebrated every single day. For those of you that are planning or hoping to be a mom one day, I promise you won’t regret it. And even though some parts of this story seem scary, they are only a very, very small part of the whole process and you will get through them.
So that is my birth story. I’m a little scared for what’s to come, but more excited to watch her grow see what kind of little human we made.