I really wanted to write Henry's birth story at his one year birthday. I purposely haven't read the first one I wrote because I thought it would be neat to compare them and see how my memory has shifted with time. I've been eager to do it, but held off until today so it was right at this time everything started a year ago.
A year ago today I had my weekly OBGYN check up. I saw the nurse practitioner and she said that I was about a centimeter dilated, but she didn't anticipate anything happening between then and my next appointment. I taught my regular classes that evening (sitting on a ball like I had been doing for about a month due to my extreme pain and immobility). That night while Derek and I were relaxing and watching TV I felt really restless. I remember feeling like I wanted to move and a general sense of being unsettled. Hindsight makes me think it was because my body was about to go into labor. I wish I had known at the time that this was our last night with just the two of us. I think it's pretty neat that our last night together fell on our 7 year dating anniversary. I've never actually thought of it like that.
That evening I went to bed and at some point ended up on the couch. I think I actually spent the whole night on the couch because I had been sleeping out there due to my pain and discomfort. I'm grateful that I was wearing a pad as a result of the spotting from my exam because just before 4:15am when I got up to go to the bathroom my water broke.
I never expected my water to break since a lot of people's don't, and I definitely want expecting it in that moment. I called my husband's name and he immediately woke. It's funny because he is a sound sleeper, yet there must have been something in my tone of voice that got him wide awake. He even asked me if he had been awake before I called him because he rose so fast.
I told him that I thought my water had broken (it kept becoming more and more clear that it had as the liquid continued to pour out of me). I called my mom and then texted my dad when she didn't answer. My dad had apparently been awake and staring at the clock or his phone because he couldn't sleep. We always say that "we are one" so he must have sensed the start of my labor. My sister also said she was dreaming that Henry was being born when my parents woke her with the news. I took a picture in the bathroom with the clock in it to mark the time as Derek hopped in the shower. By the time he was out, I was standing by the door with my bag ready to go.
The drive to the hospital I sat on a towel. I wasn't particularly having contractions, at least not more than I had been having for a few weeks. I started having them two Fridays before I gave birth. I remember it feeling really surreal.
We got to the hospital and I got checked in. We had to enter through the ER side because it was before the normal entry hours. I'm glad we went on the hospital tour so we knew what to expect. When they gave me a bracelet I got excited because it meant this was really happening. Eventually a man came out with a wheelchair and it was my turn. We were going in. Henry was going to be born!
I got taken to a small room at first and they hooked me up to a bunch of things. I know one of them was monitoring my heart rate and contractions and the other was an IV of antibiotics because I had tested GBS+. I remember having to go to the bathroom really badly but was afraid I couldn't thinking it would cause an infection since my water had broken. Eventually I decided I was just going to go. I was not going to poop on the table during labor!
Derek called our families and told them we had been admitted and Henry was coming today. My family had already booked their flight and was on their way to the airport. Derek's family just had a short trip from Orange County to Riverside. Meanwhile, I was texting people to get my classes covered and canceling the private lessons I had scheduled for the day. I laugh now because I remember thinking "I probably won't make it."
The contractions were also getting much stronger at this point. Every time I got up to go to the bathroom I left a slimy mess that Derek called "snail slim." Apparently your water keeps coming out, it's not just a water breaking moment.
I hated any time Derek left the room because our nurse kept trying to pressure me into not getting am epidural. Derek and I had talked about it beforehand and decided we wanted to go that route. Largely because he didn't want me to have to be in so much pain. I do think that was the right decision because I can't imagine the intensity of the contractions continuing to increase until Henry was born that night.
The nurse would pinch my arm and tell me how I could use my brain to anesthetize it and kept telling me to make saliva. I remember just not wanting to talk. I wanted to breathe through the contractions and instead she kept making me repeat back her theories on why I was strong enough not to need an epidural. It was definitely not helpful. Especially because it made me feel like I was being judged and, in the state I was in, the last thing I needed was to be questioning myself and my decisions.
Over the process of my labor there were three different nurse shifts. The second one who we had the longest was massaging Derek's ear at some point talking about how it would calm him. I think that was the second one, it all feels kind of like a blurry dream. The third one came on right before Henry was delivered.
At some point I was moved into my much bigger labor and delivery room. The problem with this room was that the temperature was freezing. Even the nurses commented on it and my husband was definitely not dressed appropriately. We were both freezing and I was covered in layers and layers of blankets. I got the epidural sometime during the 11am hour. I was nervous but it went fine. Again, though, I just wanted to breathe and the anesthesiologist kept making me answer questions and talk.
Shortly after getting my epidural things took a bit of a turn. Initially it made me very giggly and giddy but then I got exhausted and my blood pressure dropped. They put me on oxygen and I remember just laying there with my eyes closed. Around this time was when my family got to the hospital. My mom and sister spent a lot of time with me in the room. They and Derek all alternated between being with me and sitting in the waiting room with Derek's parents. I think only two people were allowed in the room at a time even though we broke the rules a few times.
One thing I didn't expect was how thirsty I would be. I love to eat, but I didn't care about food, I just wanted water. All I could have was ice chips and I can tell you, that is not hydrating. I would wait for the ice to melt and drink it, but I just wanted water. Bear in mind, I hadn't eaten or drank anything since dinner the night before.
By the time I was ready to give birth, neither or my doctors were on call. So, I ended up with a doctor I had never met before. Apparently she is notoriously late. They had me start pushing while she was on the way and then when they could see Henry's head, they made me stop. It felt like forever that I had to wait. I also had to help hold my legs up and they were so heavy. I did not like the doctor. She was not very attentive and was making jokes with people in the hallway. Only the nurse near me was giving instructions and seemed focused on Henry's delivery. The hardest part for me was the breathing. I wasn't allowed to inhale long. I had to take a really quick inhale and then give 3-5 pushes with each exhale, if I remember correctly. Once the actual pushing got started, though, it wasn't long until Henry came out. I think it was only about 5 sets of pushes. I remember feeling my abs contracting and feeling like I was using them to push him down the birth canal. Derek saw Henry come out. He said it was super bizarre how his body contorted to come out.
The next moment is one I never want to forget. I am already sad that it is a moment I can't experience again. I worry that the intensity of the memory and the emotions I felt will fade with time. My wedding day was my favorite day of my life, but the moment Henry was placed on my chest was the single greatest moment of my life. I remember how warm he felt and how overcome with love I felt. I felt like a piece of me was being ripped away when they had to briefly take him from me to wipe him off. Derek cut the umbilical cord, something he didn't want to do because he felt like he was hurting the two of us. Our family become complete in a moment. It makes me emotional to think about. I would live this moment over and over again. Even if I had to give birth and go through it all again. I loved it.
I did tear and had to get stitched up, but luckily the epidural made it so I didn't feel any pain. Also, my focus was on our new family. We were left to spend our first time as a family. Henry and I couldn't figure out how to breastfeed, but I just held him against my chest. I wish I could go back in time and watch the three of us enjoying our first moments together. I would love to observe it and just breathe it in.
We had flipped a coin to see whose family would come in first. Mine "won" so my parents came in first. Then Derek's. We decided that the opposite family's siblings would come in next, so next was Derek's brother and fiance followed by my sister. After everyone left, Derek went to get us food (Del Taco). He was fading fast so I called my mom and she and my sister came back. I wasn't super hungry (like I said, I just wanted to drink), but I knew I needed to after 24 hours without food.
As I said, Derek was beyond exhausted at this point so he went home to get some rest. My sister, Emily, spent the night with Henry and me. Our room was absolutely horrible. The light above my bed was broken so I had florescent light blaring down on my the whole night. I had to share a room and Emily only had a tiny chair beside my bed. Our roommates blared the TV all night and were incredibly loud and inconsiderate. The hospital was horrible.
Rewinding a little bit. I stayed in the labor and delivery room longer than normal because I wasn't regaining feeling in my legs. Eventually (probably around 10:30pm) they placed me in a wheelchair and brought me to my overnight room. I had to call for help anytime I needed to go to the bathroom. I remember all of that was scary. I couldn't walk on my own, I didn't know what I needed to do in terms of spraying myself with a spray bottle to wipe and then using a numbing spray. It all felt so foreign and I didn't feel at home in my body.
The next morning I just wanted Derek to be back and I remember feeling all emotional and out of sorts. Looking back on it, I can only imagine the rush of hormones I must have been experiencing, plus exhaustion. It was almost an out of body type experience. On top of it all, Henry and I weren't doing well at breastfeeding (I have another post about all the trouble we had during our breastfeeding journey) and I was seeing multiple lactation consultants. The nurses were not helpful. I had to manually pump, which I had no idea how to do, and was crying because it hurt so badly. I also had to syringe feed Henry.
We ended up staying in the hospital a second night because they wanted to watch me because I was still having trouble gaining feeling back in one of my legs. When we did get clearance to go, Derek got us ready and we drove home. I remember the drive home was so painful. I know I was in a lot of pain for a while after giving birth. I also bled for weeks and even had to get an ultrasound to make sure I was healing okay. I also had to do a follow up visit after my 6 week check up because I wasn't healing well downstairs. All that said, it's amazing how much the negative fades in your memory. I'm remembering it all in order to write it here, but that's not what I remember when I think about Henry's birth. Instead, I just remember the incredible joy I felt when holding him for the first time. That's what I always want to remember.
A year later there are still ups and downs. There are so many rough days, but there are also so many phenomenal moments. I know, just like with his birth, I will look back and only remember the positive. The hard times will fade away and feel so small compared to the joys motherhood has brought me. I do feel blessed. I can't wait to spend my last night sleeping beside my baby boy because when I wake up, I will be waking up next to my toddler.