February 25, 2011 0

Henry’s Birth Story

By in Kids

Here’s Henry’s birth story! It was languishing in the drafts folder. Oops. I’ve dusted it off and polished it up for the world to see :)

My due date was September 26. When I hadn’t gone into labor by my checkup on September 30, my midwives made an appointment for me to be induced. I was hoping to go into labor on my own and had started doing everything I could to get things going. Walking, cleaning, squatting, different foods, sheer willpower. Nothing worked. Henry was perfectly content right where he was. That weekend I had some pretty crampy contractions, but alas, they didn’t progress into anything. Nothing happened the rest of the week either, so Tim and I got ready to go to the hospital as scheduled on Friday, October 8.

I only slept a few hours the night before and I was a little worried that I’d be wiped out when we got to the hospital. Not so. I don’t know if it was excitement or hormones, but I was ready to go! I was nervous about getting Pitocin, because I’d heard that it makes the contractions really intense, but I tried to keep my mind on meeting my baby boy. It was hard to contain my excitement while Tim parked the car…as I was slowly wheeled to the Labor and Delivery floor…and as we waited to be taken to our room. When we finally got there, I got into my lovely pink hospital gown and hooked up to the IV.

It’s cute, right? And pink.

I wanted to write some thoughts in my journal throughout the day, but that was wishful thinking! I only managed to write a few things before I had to concentrate on the contractions. It was mostly crampy at first, like I had experienced the weekend before, but pretty soon I had to start seriously managing my pain. It might sound weird, but I was excited to find out for myself what labor pains were like!

I was handling things pretty well and was at 4cm after about 3 hours. At this point it started to get more difficult and I was moaning a lot. Apparently I even scared the lady laboring next door. Through all the pain I tried to relax, let myself open up, and coax Henry out. It must have worked, because I was at 8cm at around 4pm.  I’m really proud of myself that I made it that far on my own.

I was starting to get scared, though, which I suppose was a sign I was in transition. After talking to Tim and trying to get through a few more contractions, I asked for something to help manage the pain. I was trying to avoid the epidural, so I got narcotics first. I did NOT like those. They just made me feel loopy and I could still feel the pain. Tim and the nurse giggled at me when I complained about going cross-eyed and feeling funny.

It didn’t really give me the break I wanted, but it did let Tim go get some lunch! He had been doing a wonderful job helping me with my contractions and I wouldn’t let him leave before that (sorry, honey!). Once I was drugged up I was so loopy that I told him he should just go, especially since I wouldn’t even remember he was gone.

After Tim came back, I finally caved in and got the epidural. It’s funny because I felt like I could handle the contractions, painful though they were, I just couldn’t handle the short period of time in between them.  If someone could make a drug to give laboring women a 20 minute nap, I would take that over being so numb and not being able to move. I was glad that I got it, though. It gave me a chance to rest and gave Tim a chance to relax without hearing me in pain.

I don’t know if it was the epidural, but it took me a while to finally get to 10cm. When our midwife, Jan, came in at 7:30pm, she said we were finally ready to start pushing. Tim and I were so excited! At this point, I was happy that I had some help with the pain so I could concentrate on pushing.  Especially after being in labor for so long.

The nurse and Jan would tell me when a contraction was starting and had me push three times, for 10 seconds each. Each time I would pull in a big breath and hold it while I pushed our little one out bit by bit. Between each contraction I would rest and get ready for the next bout of pushing. I was pushing for almost two hours, but it didn’t feel like that long. It was amazing when we could start to see Henry’s fuzzy little head! We could see some wet, dark hair amongst all the goop. One of the moments I was waiting for was when I could reach down and touch him for the first time. It was awe inspiring to touch my son, even though I couldn’t hold him yet.

Now comes the scary part. After about two and a half hours of pushing, Henry popped out! My first look at him was a wet, slippery, red blur as he was taken away from me. We had wanted Tim to cut the cord, so we were a little confused when the midwife handed him right to the nurses in the room. It was unexpected, but from all of the birth stories I had read, I knew some babies needed help “getting started”, so I wasn’t too worried at first. Tim and I just hugged each other and cried because we were so happy to finally have our baby after months of anticipation. But as each second ticked by, and I didn’t hear that first wail, I got more and more nervous. As seconds turned into minutes and the minutes kept piling on top of each other, I could feel the pit of my stomach dropping. Of all the outcomes I had tried to prepare myself for, this was the one where bracing yourself was impossible.

The next 20 minutes were the worst in my entire life. I was so scared that I would lose my baby and I hadn’t even held him yet. Tim stayed by my side comforting me while I COMPLETELY lost it. The only time he left me was to go look at Henry and come back to tell me how beautiful he was. Thankfully, the nurses and doctors knew what they were doing and were able to stabilize him. Once they did, Tim made them bring Henry over so I could see him.

After some of the worst moments in my life, I’m happy to say these were the best. I said hello to him and looked into his eyes as he turned his head towards me. I held his little hand. What a lovely baby! So perfect! And he was all mine! It felt so good to see him breathing and moving and see him recognize his mommy’s voice. I had a few moments with him and then he was wheeled down to the NICU.

Tim and his parents stayed with me for a while when I was transferred to the recovery room. They got me some dinner (after not eating almost all day) and then Tim asked me if it was ok for him to go to the NICU and see Henry. I said it was, and that it would probably make me feel better to know how he was doing. Tim asked if I wanted to go, but I was still an emotional wreck and physically exhausted. I felt so leaden that I couldn’t move, so I stayed in the room. I was all by myself on a night that I thought we’d be together as a family for the first time.

I felt so guilty about not going to see him. But it felt like everything had been sucked out of me. When Tim got back, though, he told me how wonderful Henry was and showed me the video of him holding our son for the first time. I saw him with his daddy and I heard his little cries. It lifted my spirits enough so I could sleep and get some rest.

Henry and his daddy together for the first time!

It took me weeks to come to terms with how his birth story ended, because for so long I had expected elation and joy and having a beautiful, screaming baby naked against my skin. I had dreamt of breastfeeding and taking care of him that first night. My moment of happiness after giving birth to him was quickly snuffed out when I wasn’t sure if he would live or die. Having him whisked away so soon was really hard on me. People tell you not to expect certain things when you give birth, but it’s so hard not to get excited and think about what you want.

What finally made me feel better was that the pain and hardship in those 20 minutes after he was born or in the weeks that followed wasn’t the end of his story. It was the beginning of his life and just one part of mine. I could think of his birth story however I wanted, and I what I choose to think of is the first morning I visited him in the NICU.

Yeah…this was worth it…

I woke up and managed to shower, so I could look pretty for my new baby. I roused Tim and got the nurses to bring me a wheelchair. I was getting the feeling back in my legs after the epidural, but was still moving pretty slowly. There’s a whole rigamarole you have to do to get into the NICU, and I obediently washed my hands and donned an ugly, yellow, plastic robe that I would wear for the next week until Henry came home.

I remember seeing Henry in his incubator, all snuggled up in blankets with a little blue hat on his head. There was a warmer over him and he was sleeping. I got into the rocking chair in his room and the nurse gave him to me. My baby boy! I was ecstatic!

I held him gently and looked into his face. He was sleeping sweetly and I touched his cheek. He was so beautiful. I saw that he had my eyes and lips and Tim’s nose. He even had blond hair! And then I got my skin to skin time. I finally had my moment to hold my baby close and stroke his hair. I got to comfort him when he cried. I didn’t get to nurse him yet, but I fed him a bottle. I was so happy to be with him and I could tell he was happy to finally be with us.

What I learned from Henry’s birth is this:

I can handle way more than I thought I could.

Epidurals can let you rest but I had residual numbness for months afterwards. Apparently this is normal. Thanks, guys?

I totally want a doula next time. See above.

Tim is a rock and was wonderful supporting me through everything. Whatever happened, the most important thing he told me was “We’ll get through this together”. I’m lucky to have such a wonderful partner.

Life is full of joy and beauty and fear and pain. Fear and pain are things to get through until you can be joyful again.

You can’t predict how life will go. Even when it’s hard, though, the people you love will help you. Lean on them when you need to.

You don’t have to be perfect to feel joy. Excitement and anticipation are fantastic, but you can find happiness in what life has given you whether or not it’s what you expected.

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