As I write this, I’m sitting next to my napping son. Yep, that means he’s finally here. And this is how labor and delivery went (head’s up, content is a bit more graphic than usual):
At my doctor’s appointment last week, he said I was 1.5 cm dilated. I was feeling frustrated, especially since the swelling in my feet was getting worse. He suggested that I continue to mix elevating my feet and taking walks. Since I had a week and a day left, I scheduled my facial and later walked on a treadmill at the gym with my husband after he got home from work.
I didn’t make it to my facial appointment the next day. That walk worked a little too well. I had the speed pretty slow but periodically I’d feel a strong contraction. I was still able to walk for 30 minutes but felt exhausted afterward. Around 3 am, I woke up thinking I had to use the bathroom but literally as my feet touched the ground, I felt a pop and a rush of fluid. I ran to the bathroom and the fluid kept coming.
My water broke. I yelled for my husband and asked him to call the on-call doctor. She said since strong contractions hadn’t started yet she wanted me to wait until 6 am to go in. My husband then called my parents and let them know to be on standby. They live across the state and I didn’t want them driving all the way here if I’d just be sent home. However, when my husband ended that call, my contractions started. They were coming fast, about 5 minutes apart, and within an hour I soaked through 5 huge maxi pads. We went to the hospital and I sat on towels in the car to soak up my water since I kept leaking. After going through triage at the hospital it turned out that I was dilated 3 cm. I was admitted (the contractions were almost unbearable at this point) and my husband called my parents to tell them to head down, and called his parents to let them know that active labor started.
The wait in labor and delivery was agonizing. I munched on ice chips to stay hydrated and watched random stuff on TV while waiting to further dilate. The nurses came in about once every 30 minutes to check my vitals and to have me lay on my side with a peanut ball between my knees. A peanut ball looks like an exercise ball squished in the middle and it was supposed to help open my hips in preparation for delivery. Eventually my contractions got worse and you could see them on the monitor right before they happened. I got an epidural and could push the button to supply the medication once every 20 minutes (!). I fell asleep a few times and my parents made it before the real fun started. After almost 14 hours of laboring, it was finally time. The doctor arrived and told me to take a deep breath, hold it, then push. I always thought labor was like on TV or in the movies, when you’re doing the Lamaze-type breathing but pushing my son out was like taking the biggest poop of my life. A nurse wheeled over a mirror so I could see my son’s head while I pushed. It was weird, especially since I haven’t seen my own vagina in about 6 months.
Anyway, it felt like it took forever for his head to come out but once it did the rest of him popped out within 30 minutes. Giving birth was an out of body experience and even now there are some parts that were a blur. My son’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck (this actually common) so the doctor had to cut the cord immediately instead of waiting until the cord stopped pulsing. While our son was getting checked at the warming table, the doctor stitched me up since I tore in 3 places and bled a lot. I didn’t feel the tears but definitely felt the stitches being put in. It took long enough to get sewn up that the baby did skin to skin with my husband first. Once everyone was cleaned up, my parents and later mother-in-law visited, then the baby and I were wheeled up to the maternity ward where we spent the next 2 days. I slept as much as I could but it was tough because the nurses came in about once every 3-4 hours to take vitals for my son and I or to go over some kind of paperwork. What’s nice about the hospital is that they had the office of vital statistics located within it so we got his birth certificate issued right then. The food was great too.
Using the bathroom was a hassle and a half because of the stitches. There was a whole routine I had to go through to help minimize pain while keeping everything clean, including using a numbing spray and a squirt bottle instead of toilet paper. They also provided this urine-catching pitcher to the toilet I guess to see how much I was urinating postpartum. One of the nurses fussed at me for peeing almost 2 cups of urine but I told her that I was so wiped that I honestly had a hard time telling when I had to go. My parents visited again the day after I gave birth and when I asked my dad and my husband to pose while holding my son, he started crying, which got me crying too. I’m not a cryer and neither is my dad, but he said he was overcome by seeing my son look up at my husband. It was definitely an unforgettable moment.
My biggest challenge so far was trying to breastfeed. My son wouldn’t latch properly, which made it painful. I know that breast is best but it felt like the nurses at the hospital weren’t understanding how much it hurt to breastfeed, no matter what I tried. They said to stimulate my nipples, which helped me produce 2-4 drops of colostrum (kind of like pre-milk, since milk doesn’t come in for 3-7 days after giving birth), then showed me how to shove my nipple into my son’s mouth when he was rooting (trying to latch). He’d just bite instead of suck so he’d receive formula to make sure he ate. Another nurse had me use a breast pump to stimulate my nipples a different way, but even on the lowest setting it hurt. The next morning, a lactation consultant came in and it still felt like I wasn’t being heard. Most of the nurses and the consultant were nice but I don’t know what part of “my nipples hurt so much that even a bra is uncomfortable” is unclear. I tried to pump using the pump I have at home and it still hurt a lot. I’ll give it a few days but my son’s pediatrician was unconcerned. She also was a lot more empathetic about the latch problems.
We saw the pediatrician the day after I discharged from the hospital and we were a few minutes late because the night before was a disaster. We all had difficulty adjusting to the baby being home so he cried. A lot. And wouldn’t go to sleep. We were trying to go by his schedule but quickly learned that we needed to set the schedule. It was also hard to gauge when he had soiled diapers until he was already screaming and he hates getting his diaper changed. All told, my husband and I got maybe 2 hours of sleep the first night. My mom called the next morning and when I told her what happened, she came back down to help out. She bought groceries and other random things we didn’t think to get (like cold-weather onesies since he hates being swaddled) then also helped with feeding and cleaning up. She and my dad will be back later this week to give my husband and I a break. I also told her that putting our son on a schedule was probably the best decision we made besides giving him a pacifier during changing times. We’re all sleeping better and are more attentive to his hunger and soiled diaper cues. Feeding him has been interesting because his appetite has shot up since birth. Before, he’d be content with 10-15 milliliters of formula but as of today we’re at 50-60 per feeding.
Overall, we’re doing well and continuing to adjust to our new family of 3.