Without further ado, please allow me to proudly introduce you to...
Roman David Wheeler
He boldly entered this world on 9/2/2016 at 9:41 am, and our hearts have been melting ever since! What follows is his birth story in all of its humanity before the romantic haze of motherhood sets in and glosses over all the gory parts.
For starters, you should know the original "plan." It really wasn't much, I was adamant that I could do it naturally without an epidural, although I felt comfortable dippin' into a little nitrous oxide if necessary. The coup de gras would be the birthing tub, where I was sure to gain some relief through the worst of contractions. I had been practicing my hypnotherapy all summer (you can read about my awesome session with my mother-in-law), and felt confident in using the relaxation techniques I had learned. The main reason I desired a natural birth was because I was scared shitless of something going wrong with the epidural. That needle goes into your SPINE, yo! One false move and your whole neurological system is kaput. At the very least I had read about some super uncomfortable side effects lasting long after birth, and even though I know that is rare the whole sitch terrified me. So au naturel was the plan.
Our hospital already enforced the other things I cared about; I could eat if I wanted to, move around and shower as needed, control the temperature and lighting in my room, there would be skin to skin contact with my son immediately after birth, and delayed cord clamping to make sure he could squeeze any remaining nutrients out of the placenta. Troy knew what I would need from him for support - we were ready for this adventure!
And so, we sat back and waited for labor to start. I tried desperately to relax and enjoy the time I had at home by myself knowing this would be the last time my world was truly my own. It was not easy. As of week 37 I knew that I was 1 cm dilated and 70% effaced (that is how thin the cervix is) and had numerous doctors be surprised at HOW LOW his head was; I couldn't help but feel my son's birthday was near! I felt a kind of constant excitement for the big day and anxiety during all the days which nothing happened. I was in the zone similar to the beginning of pregnancy where so many symptoms mean you could or could not be pregnant, except this time I was trying to guess when I wouldn't be pregnant anymore. "Is this a normal pregnancy pain or AM I IN LABOR?! Did I just pee for five minutes or AM I IN LABOR?! There was a drop in barometric pressure AM I IN LABOR?!"
Yet, on Thursday September 1st at 39 weeks 2 days pregnant I found myself sitting at my prenatal appointment discussing induction of all things! I had progressed to 2 1/2 cm dilated and 80% effaced, but my doctor made it clear I could be like that for another week (yes, even though his head was SO LOW). He explained to me that he doesn't like to see his patients go over a week past their due date, as studies have shown that the placenta starts to give out and can cause major problems (including fetal death). I throw this tidbit in here because it was surprising to me, I always thought they were worried about babies getting too big to push out - it never occurred to me that the placenta was only built to last a certain amount of time!
After that appointment I went about my day making peace with the fact that I may be choosing my baby's birthday and that birth may go a little differently than I anticipated (I hear Pitocin, the medication used for induction, is no joke). Again, I tried to savor my alone time. I cuddled my animals, took a nap, and spent the majority of the afternoon playing a very cool iPad game called The Room.
My mom knew I was going stir crazy, so she brought the fam over for Thai takeout. We ended up watching home movies the rest of the evening, which was pretty fun! They were from my mom's childhood on a 1960's projector that Troy got working. Since there was no sound my Nana got to narrate what was happening and who all the people were. It was definitely a great way to pass the time and for a while I forgot about how eager I was for labor.
Later that night I was attempting to snuggle up to Troy and watch him play The Room when my phone rings. It was my mom - weird for her to call that late at night, especially after she just left my house.
"Hi...Honey..." Her voice sounded quivery and I immediately started to panic. Had there been a car crash? Was my sister OK? There is a long pause. My adrenaline surges.
"Is - is everything OK? What's wrong?" My voice is high pitched.
"Oh yeah, I'm just trying to figure out how to transfer you some money." Jesus! She is on the computer!
We figured out the online banking, and I was putting away my check book when I felt a small gush of something between my legs. Then a small gush becomes a major gush! I told my mom, "I think my water just broke." I must have spoken too calmly because my mom goes, "WHAT?! WHAT DID YOU SAY?!" I said it again, "My water is breaking! I have peed myself before and this is totally different!" Excitedly I told her I would call her back since I needed to figure out what to do next.
Meanwhile Troy is frantically trying to usher me to the bathroom and clean up my spillage. Here's the thing about your water breaking all at once. It doesn't stop. I had to laugh when every time I thought I was in the clear I would stand up and WHOOSH another downpour. It was 9:45 at night and I was practically giddy as I called the Labor and Delivery line to see if I should go in (I couldn't remember if I should wait for contractions to ramp up). They told me I could take my time, but yes come in soon.
By 10:15 we were in the triage room getting checked out and my contractions were under way. I was giving them a 3-4 on the pain scale, they felt like period cramps - annoying but manageable. I was still excited and in disbelief that labor was really underway! Wasn't it just this morning I had my prenatal appointment??
The rest of the night was completely surreal. Time seemed to pass quickly and stand still at the same time. By 1 am I was feeling the pain. Walking, sitting, laying down - I couldn't handle any of it. All I could do was stand in the middle of the room and let the waves of pain take over. I tried so, so hard to relax and breathe through it. I felt like my lungs were incapable of expanding. I tried showering and couldn't find a position that was comfortable and kept my IV port from the water (the port is a fun accessory for every birth). I was rating the contractions a 7 or 8 because I wanted to save the higher numbers for the end when I knew it would get worse, but it effing hurt like hell. On top of that I had almost constant, uncontrollable shaking. Troy kept asking if I was cold, I wasn't. The shakes were taking up the little energy the contractions left behind.
By 2 am I couldn't bear it anymore and needed something. The nurse was awesome in discussing all of my options and was very realistic about the road ahead. I clearly remember her saying, "girl, you know when you hear of someone having a 20 hour labor? This is what they are talking about." That hit home with me. Cross my heart, I truly thought that most of labor would be in the 5-6 pain level and the 8+ was reserved for the last few hours when baby was really close. Nope. Our nurse said I should expect to have this baby between lunch and dinner time the following day. I panicked a little bit. I was already exhausted, how could I handle this level of pain for 8, 10, 12 more hours? I looked to Troy and the nurse for help. The dreaded e-word came up. Now that I knew what I was dealing with, did I want an epidural? I didn't know. We decided to go for a narcotic medication through the IV that was supposed to take the edge off for an hour or so and give me a break. Time to process the situation.
Earlier in the evening when I had called my mom back to tell her we were on our way to the hospital she said, "I'm headed over!" I told her she could wait. I knew I didn't want anyone with me during labor except Troy and that it could be a very long night in the waiting room for her. She didn't care. She wanted to be available as soon as we were ready to show off our baby. I am so, so thankful she was there. At 2:15 in the morning under a narcotic induced dizziness I needed my mom to help me talk through getting the epidural I had spent all summer choosing NOT to have.
"Why wouldn't you?" It was a simple question, and at that moment I couldn't answer it. I couldn't justify one reason to not give myself a much needed reprieve from the pain. I needed strength and energy for pushing, and at the rate I was going it wasn't going to be there.
At 2:40 am they called up the anesthesiologist (I spelled that all by myself, btw) and my mom stays with us until they ask her to leave the room to give the epidural. Getting the epidural put in was a breeze compared to the contractions. There were no complications despite the fact I was still shaking and I don't remember much about it, except that the anesthesiologist said he would remember my tattoo. [Troy says I did give him a little bit of attitude when I told him I was having a contraction, like I was directed to, and he said "That's OK, you can continue with the contraction." To which I replied, "gee thanks."] The midwife on duty came to check my cervix and everyone was surprised to see I had dilated to 8 cm! The nurse adjusted her ETA to "around lunch time for sure." That was a heartening remark, and I was proud to have made it that far!
Then the relief came. The epidural was the best decision I have ever made for myself. The anesthesiologist did an awesome job, so I could still feel all the pressure of contractions without any pain. With the pain gone it was easier to relax during the fits of shaking and eventually those faded away as well. It was now about 3:30 in the morning and I was ready to get some rest.
With machines going off, and the nurse coming in to adjust my monitors and flip me around (my right side was especially numb making it impossible to turn sides by myself) sleep never came. Troy slept fitfully in a chair by my bedside and I spent the next few hazy hours practicing my hypnotherapy and thinking about my baby. I could hear his heartrate steadily beating away and knew he was awake. I remember thinking I couldn't sleep and leave him to face the contractions by himself - we were in this together!
Around 6 I could tell contractions were picking up, and I could feel some cramping in my back on my left side. The nurse came in and let me take an extra hit off the epidural (there is a button you can push that releases more meds) then spent the last hour of her shift talking to me; it was her birthday that day too! I was grateful for her company, and bummed when her shift was over at 7 am. Although the new nurse was just as lovely.
Around this time there was a new sensation to my contractions. An overwhelming desire to poop myself. Lovely. I called in the nurse to explain the situation and she let me know that it was a good sign. However, since I had gotten an epidural she and the midwife wanted me to try and labor a little longer to help minimize the amount of time spent pushing. I was happy to oblige until the back pain started to get unbearable. Back up to 8 on the scale, and that's with the epidural. This was probably due to the baby still being sunny side up meaning he was face up, spine to spine, and we were in the midst of "back labor". I told the nurse I would either need another hit off the epidural or do something else, but I couldn't just wait anymore. She called in the midwife and we all agreed I could start pushing and see what happens!
Wow! What an experience that last stretch was! I focused on nothing except waiting for contractions, which felt like they were spaced hours apart, but were 3-5 minutes and very inconsistent. This was also due to the back labor. Troy was an awesome support, and made the physical act of pushing so much easier. The midwife and nurse were excellent cheerleaders and made me feel like I was doing a good job. Having that reassurance helped me stay strong. Our son was also a super star. His heartrate would drop as he started to get tired from whatever position I was in, but with a small adjustment of pillows and angles he would gear back up. At some point he began to rotate his body down, and the contractions became more consistent.
All in all, pushing took about 2 hours. The longest moment in my life was after the baby crowned and the midwife had me stop pushing to wait for a fresh contraction to get him out. I was so ready mentally and emotionally that it took all my effort to hold back, but I did and on the next big contraction delivered our beautiful boy into the world. He was face down, but belly up - he was twisting into the proper position right to the very end! After the quickest dry off ever (seriously, the nurse that dried him off should be part of a pit crew) he was handed to me, and only moments later his cord stopped pulsing for Troy to cut. The time was 9:41 am and I had been in labor (a mere) 11 hours and 56 minutes.
I felt everything in that moment. Elation, love, gratitude, exhaustion, triumph. There are no words. Roman is perfect. He cried enough to prove that his lungs were working, and then started calmly observing the world. Gazing at him I barely even noticed the placenta being delivered, and was grateful to give him my attention while my lady parts were stitched back together (only a first degree tear, and luckily my midwife was a self proclaimed perfectionist).
He clocked in weighing 6 lbs 14 ounces and 20 inches long. I have learned so much the week since his birth. I have been particularly shocked by the after math of birth, but I'll save that for another post. For now I am going to catch up on some sleep - that is if I can ever stop staring at my son!
Perfect Stranger, thank you for reading this super long post! Sleep deprived isn't the best condition for writing, but I appreciate getting to share my story!