August 29th, 2017.
I had been having Braxton Hicks contractions that entire weekend but since my due date was still October 4 I didn’t think much of them. Little did I know that my world was about to be rocked.
Quite literally. What felt like innocent stomach flu symptoms became so much more than that…
It was an ordinary Monday, very much a typical Monday.
Too much traffic. Not enough sleep. Yada yada yada.
I got to work and attempted to busy myself with menial Monday tasks while I had my breakfast and gained energy for the rest of the day. The energy just wasn’t flowing though. I felt queasy, clammy, and dizzy. The migraine should have been my first clue that something wasn’t quite right due to the fact that I hadn’t experienced a migraine since my first trimester. Yet I managed to put my pain on the back burner and go about my day like I usually do. It wasn’t until about 1:00 PM (and 30 trips to the bathroom later) that I realized I felt extremely light-headed and I felt a lot of pressure towards the bottom half of my body.
Looking back at that Monday now I feel silly for not realizing I was in the early stages of labor. Things would have definitely been a little easier.
So anyway, I decided to ask my boss if I could take the rest of the day off and she, of course, agreed and sent me on my way. At that point I could barely make out more than a couple of feet in front of me and I was sweating buckets even though the office is usually kept at a decent temperature. I could not wait to get home.
Once home, I relished the idea of taking a much needed nap but that plan was put on hold thanks to Mia’s dad. He supposedly had to “go to work” but he promised he’d be back in an hour or two tops. Mia was wound up and wanted to me to read to her and play with her. I had no other choice but to semi-oblige her. I sprawled myself on our couch and watched her play with her toys and offered to turn the pages in her storybooks as she “read” the stories.
Of course, her dad was nowhere to be found four hours later and he didn’t end up coming back until almost midnight. At this point I was irritated and 100% NOT buying his work story. My contractions had also gotten more frequent and more painful and I had a horrible fever and my body felt weak. I hoped he would offer to take me to the hospital but he told me I was being overdramatic and fell asleep on the couch.
It took all the strength and patience I had -and trust me, there wasn’t very much left- not to smother him with the couch’s throw pillows, but I had expected as much from him and instead called my mom. She insisted on driving me to the hospital and came and picked Mia and I up. Once at the hospital we made our way to the ER reception desk. The receptionist took one look at my belly and asked, “Honey, are you in labor?”
“Oh, God, I hope not,” was my tart reply.
I felt bad for being so short with her but I had a lot of thoughts racing through my head and with my due date being almost 5 weeks away I wasn’t thinking about labor in that moment.
She still had to page labor and delivery though and my mom, Mia, and I waited about 5 minutes for the nurse from labor and delivery to come downstairs and wheel me to the third floor of the hospital. By then it was already midnight and I was sleepy, hungry, and in pain.
We were there for five hours.
In the span of five hours I was poked a total of ten times -due to my dehydrated state my veins were not cooperating- my blood was drawn for a series of labs on THREE separate occasions and I received one VERY PAINFUL pelvic exam. I was a grumpy mess by discharge time. I also didn’t feel any better.
The OB on call told me I was only at 1 cm dilated and she didn’t see a reason to suspect this was labor. She noted I had the classic symptoms for gastroenteritis and suggested I go home and get some much needed rest. Once again, my due date was not for another FIVE weeks so I agreed with her and didn’t think twice about chalking up my symptoms to a stomach bug.
Off we went.
My mom was even more annoyed and sleepy than I was. She offered to drive me home but her tone of voice told me she didn’t really want to drive 20 miles out of her way before being able to drive home to her warm bed. Basically, I was the only obstacle in the way of her and her beauty sleep.
“I can spend the night with you guys if that’s ok, Mom. I am going to call in to work tomorrow anyway.”
Her face lit up.
“Oh thank God. I can drop you guys off in the morning if you want.”
Her pathetic attempt at discreetness.
When we got to my parent’s house I half carried/half walked Mia downstairs to the “guest bedroom” where I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow.
It felt like I’d been sleeping for hours when I was awakened by what felt like a warm gush of water exiting out of my lower half. When I looked down at my pants I saw red stains and waddled upstairs. Blood. Not a lot of it but enough to be somewhat concerned. I chalked it up to my body’s way of reacting to the painful pelvic exam that had taken place just three short hours earlier and went back downstairs to take a shot at some more sleep. No such luck. I kept feeling the intense urge to urinate and I started feeling pressure in my pelvic area.
A half hour went by and the pressure in my pelvic area was worsening and I had gone to the bathroom a total of 5 more times.
My mom took my sister to school and it wasn’t until she returned that I asked her what I should do. The situation definitely did not feel normal to me, but I wanted her opinion. My mom suggested I shower then call my midwives and describe my pain. It seemed like a solid idea to me.
I undressed and ran the water as hot as I could stand it and walked underneath the stream of water. The pressure in my parent’s shower head felt amazing on my lower back and I stood there practicing my breathing and grimacing as new waves of pain took over the lower half of my body at steady 3-4 minute intervals. I remember thinking to myself
“Shit, this is it…”
10 minutes into my shower I felt the pain getting worse and called out for my mom. “Can you get me my phone?” She rushed to retrieve my phone while I sluggishly crawled out of the shower and into the hallway. I watched as the water from my sopping hair dripped onto my mom’s hardwood floors. I gave her an apologetic look as she came over to me, phone in hand.
With my mom at my side I called the nurse at the midwifery and through gritted teeth, tried to explain to her how I felt. She told me to go in straight away and they’d do a pelvic exam.
I hadn’t brought clothes to change into the night before because the turn of events from the previous night were unexpected. My mom retreated into her closet and came out with sweatpants and a t-shirt. The sweatpants probably would have fit me ok if I hadn’t been pregnant, but at almost 35 weeks and VERY pregnant it took all the strength I could muster to pull them up past my thighs. Putting on the shirt was another ordeal. It was a size too small and fit me like a crop top but I was too tired and pained to care very much.
Off we went.
The short 5 minute drive to the midwifery was agonizing. Every bump, turn, and abrupt braking made me clench my stomach tight and I felt beads of sweat decorate my forehead as I tried desperately to “breathe in, breathe out.” Mia gave me her hand in a super sweet gesture but kept asking me, “Mommy are you okay?” when I’d feel a contraction and accidentally squeeze her hand a little too tight. My mom pulled into the parking lot and came around and opened my door. I struggled to hop out of the car and waddled to the entrance.
As we entered the waiting area my mom checked me in and thankfully I only waited a minute before the nurse called me back. She led me to one of the exam rooms and asked me to undress from the waist down so my midwife could complete a pelvic exam. My midwife walked into the room and got right to it. She tried to make chitchat as she pulled on her gloves but I wasn’t up to talking at all. I saw her eyes get wide as she checked my cervix and begrudgingly waited for what she was inevitably about to say.
“Hey, so you’re at 6cm hon! He’s actually really low in your pelvis which is why you probably feel so much pelvic pain. We need to get you to the hospital right away!”
I looked at my mom. She was staring at me, eyes wide in disbelief.
My mom turned her focus to the midwife, “What does that mean?”
“Well, we’re having a baby today! Congratulations!”
I closed my eyes and shuddered.
No, no, no, no, no. This is not how it’s supposed to be. No. Please, push him back in!
“Okay, thank you,” I managed to whisper.
“See you at the hospital!”
As we walked back to the car my mom gave me a nervous smile.
“Wow, it’s really happening again…” is all she said.
The hospital was directly in front of the midwifery practice so my mom only drove a short distance. There were no parking spots anywhere close to the building so my mom drove to the front and told me to wait there for her. The man working the lobby saw me struggling to walk and brought over a wheelchair.
“I can have the valet service park your car ma’am,” he told my mom. My mom looked apprehensive but handed him her keys.
She wheeled me over to the elevator and we went up to the third floor.
The receptionist remembered me from my early ER trip just a few hours before and had a nurse usher us into a room. At that point it was a little past 9:30 AM.
I was in so much pain but in an effort to not yell out I bit the insides of my cheeks. A salty taste filled my mouth and I knew it was blood. I’d missed my cheek and gotten my tongue. Tears welled up in my eyes but I brushed them off as the nurse helped me out of the wheelchair and into the hospital bed. She asked me to undress and handed me a green bag and a hospital gown. I put on the gown and sat on the edge of the bed while she called over other nurses to come and help her. Four more nurses scurried into my room and one nurse had me lay on my back in preparation for a pelvic exam while two other nurses hooked me up to the machine that would monitor the baby’s heartbeat. My room nurse started an IV and went out to meet my midwife in the hallway.
(FYI: The midwife who delivered my son’s name is Emily. Sorry I may have not mentioned her name previously. I find it weird to keep referring to her as “the midwife.”)
Emily did another pelvic exam and informed me that I was now 7 cm dilated so it was therefore a little late to think about an epidural or pain medicine of any kind. Apparently the birth was progressing very quickly and she anticipated I’d be ready to push in an hour or two. By this time it was already 10AM.
The next hour was a blur. I felt the pain increasingly get worse but I closed my eyes and turned over on my left side and hugged the side railings of the bed. I counted to one hundred in my head then counted backwards back to one. When that was no longer working I focused instead on my breathing.
Emily stayed in my room for a majority of the time and placed a wet cloth on my forehead and made chitchat with my mom and Mia. I caught a glimpse of Mia two or three times and she kept looking at me with a worried look on her face. I heard her repeatedly ask Emily and my mom if I was ok. I felt awful she had to be there to experience me at such a painful time, but it encouraged me to keep my outbursts at bay in order to not scare her or worry her further.
It was so strange, being in labor yet again but feeling totally in control of my body. Whenever I felt my body start to tense up at the onset of a contraction I focused on my breathing and willed my body to relax and stay in control of the pain.
It doesn’t hurt. You’re one with the pain.
I repeated it in my head over and over and over until my body began to believe it. Emily and my room nurse came over to give me words of encouragement after each contraction.
“You’re doing so well. You are in total control honey. You are one tough mama.”
At around 10:55 Emily told me I was at 9 cm and she would be manually breaking my water. She explained that the pain would be stronger and more frequent afterwards. I nodded in understanding and she broke my water.
The pressure I felt was unreal. Emily sensed that I was becoming frenzied and came over to reassure me I was doing amazing and I could get through these next 10 minutes before she had to check if I was finally at 10 cm. She gave my hand a squeeze and rubbed my back through three especially horrendous contraction sets.
Ten minutes felt like five hours. When she finally checked me again she explained I was at 9.5 cm but it was okay to start prepping to push. I glanced over at the clock. 11:11.
The urge to push was unbearable.
“Emily, I need to push,” I whimpered.
She walked over to me, fully gowned and gloved and told me to wait for another contraction. My room nurse stood on my right side and rubbed my shoulder. I felt the onset of a contraction and gripped the rails on the side of the bed.
“Bear down and push Michelle. NOW.”
I weakly attempted to push but grew disoriented. I was unintentionally holding my breath and was getting dizzy. After a few more pathetic attempts to push I felt my body slipping out of my control and I began to feel panicky. My room nurse could sense my growing despair and took my hand in hers and told me to look at her.
“You’ve done so well mama, don’t quit on me now. I know it hurts. It wouldn’t hurt this much if you weren’t doing it right. Just remember it’ll hurt for a lot less time if you focus on your pushing and bear down.”
“Okay, Michelle. You can do this.” I told myself. I looked over at my mom who was consoling Mia. She gave me a thumbs up. Mia had her hands covering her eyes but I could see her opening her hands ever so slightly to peek over at me.
At the next contraction, I pushed. It hurt like hell but I kept pushing.
Push, push, push, push, push. Bear down, push, push, you’ve got this, give us another big push. Inhale.
Push, push, yes mama, we can see his head, he’s got a lot of hair, push, push, push, you’re doing it! Inhale.
I looked at Mia. She was staring in disgusted awe. “Grandma, mommy’s bleeding.”
Okay Michelle. Don’t push. You’re going to feel a lot of pressure, but I have to make sure he’s positioned correctly and won’t get stuck on his way out. I know it hurts. I know you want to push, but wait for me to say when you can push.
It felt like someone had placed a thousand pound weight on my pelvis. Tears welled up in my eyes and I let out a pained yell. Mia yelled, “Mommy, are you okay?!”
Okay, PUSH. Your biggest push yet, push your baby out mama! Good, push, push, push. One more big push. He’s right here, Michelle. Keep pushing.
After roughly 25 minutes of pushing I felt the pressure subside and a shuddering wave of relief coursed through my body as I felt my son’s slimy body exit me. I held back tears as I waited for him to proclaim his entrance into the world.
A meek cry escaped from his mouth as they suctioned and cleaned him further. As his lungs filled with more air the cry grew louder and stronger. The tears I had held back fell freely on my cheeks now.
I did it. I had a son.
I looked over at Mia. She had started crying when she saw her brother exiting my body, but looked in awe now at his tiny body from afar as the pediatric nurses cleaned and measured him.
My mom kissed my forehead and walked over to where they had him.
Emily brought me back to reality.
Okay, the hard part is done. Now we need to deliver the placenta. Give me one big push, Michelle. Then you can hold your baby before they take him up to the NICU.
I gave one big push and felt a wave of relief shudder through my body. The peds nurse came and put my son on my chest. He told me since my son had been born before 35 weeks it was mandatory to take him up to the NICU. “We’ll let you see him after you’ve completed your hour and a half of recovery.”
Then they whisked him away.
Meanwhile, Emily was stitching me up and my mom was getting Mia ready to leave. Mia hadn’t had breakfast yet and she was hungry. “I’m going to take her home, feed her, pick Meztli (my sister) up from school, then we’ll be back to see you.” I nodded in agreement.
During my hour in recovery my super amazing and sweet coworker, Emily, came to see me on her lunch break to gift me my first venti double chocolately chip frappucino from Starbucks postpartum. She kept me company for most of the time I was in recovery and we talked about the experience and I showed her pictures of my son.
After my hour and a half was up I was allowed to go see him in the NICU. It was a little disappointing for me knowing another one of my kids was in the NICU, but seeing him thriving and looking healthy made me feel better. He ended up being jaundiced and had to stay in the NICU for a total of 7 days. He received 3 days of light therapy. He was discharged a day after labor day.
The first month was a hard adjustment for all parties involved. He had trouble nursing at first but has since gotten the hang of it and has gained back the lb he lost during his NICU stay and gained 5 additional lbs on top of that.
Life with two kids has proven quite a difficult task but I feel like we’re succeeding. Both kids had well-child exams today and were complete angels the whole time at the doctors.
Here’s a pic for you all to enjoy 🙂