Disclaimer: this is a detailed birth story. Birth is a messy and rather graphic business. There are words and images below that may bother you. If you think they might, I’d encourage you to move along. Thanks!
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My pregnancy with Judah was easier in some ways than my pregnancy with Moses, but much harder in others. For example, while I was horribly sick the whole time with Moses, my sickness cleared up with Judah about halfway through. However, I struggled in this pregnancy in ways I hadn’t with Moses– sciatica, gestational diabetes (GD), a marginal cord insertion on an anterior placenta, and absolutely crippling, incapacitating fear. The kind that lurks in the back of your mind at all times and then suddenly flares and leaves you a hysterical, shaky, weepy mess, literally gasping for air because all your worst what if’s are not so easily dismissed when you’ve seen the worst happen before. Fear was the very hardest thing about this pregnancy. And after a fairly traumatic birth experience with Moses and a miscarriage, fear was my biggest challenge walking into this birth as well.
Judah was consistently measuring over two weeks larger than he should have, typical for GD babies. (Over 7 lbs at a 36 week growth ultrasound.) I’d been to the hospital three times with regular contractions, but my cervix was never more than 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced, so they always sent me home. It was exhausting and scary every time. Because of this and because of the placental issues and how physically hard the pregnancy was on me, we chose to induce at 39 weeks.
In the days leading up to induction day, I frequently found it impossible to sleep past 3AM. So I’d get up and pray. I wrote all my prayers down in a journal, that always helps me focus when I’m feeling distracted or not particularly into the practice, but know I need to do it anyway, which was exactly how I was feeling that week. I’m glad I did because watching God answer those prayers in Judah’s birth was one of the most faith building things I’ve ever experienced.
We started pitocin around 7:30 AM on Thursday the 21st, beginning with a very small amount and increasing a little bit every hour. Like my experience with Moses, pitocin was not the horror story people say it is– zero to 60 in twenty minutes. In fact, my labor nurse told me they’re not even allowed to use pitocin that way any more. So, future first time mamas, file that away.
It was my plan to do everything I could to help my labor progress naturally for as long as I could, but if I needed synthetic pain management at some point, then I’d do that. I had prayed over and over that God would help me make the right decisions at the right time and help me feel confident in them. The doctor had broken my water around 9 AM and Lord, have mercy, the floodgates were opened! Turns out Judah was not enormous, I just had tons and tons and tons of amniotic fluid. Everyone was kind of astonished by how much there was, including my doctor. (Side note: if you’re a first time mama reading this, it’s unlikely you’ll mistake your water breaking for going to the bathroom. It’s kind of slimy and extremely warm, and when they say “gush”, they mean GUSH.)
After I’d been laboring for most of the day, I felt like I was approaching the point where I might want some meds (8ml of pitocin). I’d done everything I knew to do to help the baby move down the birth canal and hadn’t been horizontal at all since induction began. I had felt confident and strong and trusted that I’d done what I could. We chose to check my cervix and see where it was. If I was heading into transition, I was ready to keep going. If I was stuck at a 3-4, like I had been every time I’d been into the hospital previously, then I was ready for drugs and some sleep. (I’d been unable to sleep past 3 AM that morning as well.)
It was the right decision to check. Turns out, I was still stuck at a 4 and 50% effaced. So it was drug time. My contractions were so close together and so intense that it made it the epidural very difficult. Another right decision at the right time. If I’d waited any longer, it wouldn’t have been an option, so said the anesthesiologist– who was, mercifully, a silver fox with big blue eyes and a southern drawl. I remember telling Aaron I thought it was a good thing he was cute– people whose job it is to hurt you should have an attractive and calming presence, in my opinion. Aaron rolled his eyes and gave me his signature indulgent sly half smile. My husband is, of course, the foxiest of them all.
As per protocol for me, the epidural made me absolutely FREEZING cold. It was a bit of a chore to get myself all in position with my belly wedge pillow (A MUST to help with pain I was having), the giant peanut ball or stack of pillows they wanted between my legs to help keep the pelvic floor open for baby, and the multiple heated blankets to keep me warm. My teeth were still chattering. Aaron had been waiting on me hand and foot all day, so once I was comfortable, he went to get some food. I slept intermittently as things kept waking me up– the wireless HR and contraction monitors, nurses coming to check in them, etc. After a while, I noticed my epidural was wearing off on my left side. By the time the nurse anesthetist came to help, it had completely worn off and I felt everything, but couldn’t move half of my body. So. Much. Fun. She adjusted it and increased my allowance a bit and I was able to relax again.
Here’s where it starts getting hazy. I remember there was a shift change. I remember disliking my new nurse. I remember she checked my cervix again and it was at a 9. It seems rest was exactly what my body needed to progress. Another right decision at the right time. I remember the epidural wore off again in the same way, despite my pushing the button at regular intervals. I remember feeling pushy. I remember my stupid new nurse telling me “You can’t push now, if you do, you’re gonna have to push for five hours again.” Side note: she was referencing a note in my birth plan about how this happened with my first born and I didn’t want it to happen again. This became her regular mantra when I told her my body was pushing and I couldn’t stop it. Being that my birth plan also mentioned my extreme levels of fear and anxiety surrounding this birth and my desire to keep these low with regular reassurance from those on my team, I really didn’t appreciate this or understand what the hell she was trying to accomplish by saying it so often.
Additional side note, I really don’t understand why labor nurses do this. Anyone who’s had a vaginal birth knows damn well that when your body decides it’s time to start pushing, YOU CANNOT STOP IT! It’s involuntary. I’m not choosing to do it. How do you stop a bodily function you have no control over? Whatevs. Maybe they know something I don’t.
Eventually, with many eye rolls and reminders that I was going to end up pushing for five hours, she got the doctor, who was mercifully confident that I really could start pushing. Time gets all wibbly-wobbly here, because I know from talking to my husband, it was about 30-45 mins of pushing. But it felt like it was taking forever and also that it went SUPER FAST at the same time. I remember the doctor telling the nurses to get everything ready for the placenta and cord. “Am I really that close?” I asked her. She scoffed and said “uhh yeah, the head’s almost out!” Cue ring of fire. Cue me both hating the pain and wanting it over and knowing I was going to tear if I pushed again and also not caring because seriously get this kid out of me already. And then his head was out in one push. And then came that glorious feeling with the final push where the rest of him just slides right out in a warm gooey rush and you know you’re done– hands down, THE BEST FEELING!
He was born at 8:35 PM, a solid 13 hours– far less than five days. They laid him on me right away, something I didn’t get to do with Moses. I remember thinking a few very fragmented things. First, oh thank God it’s over. Next, this is gross, I could skip this next time. Then, you are so amazing and so perfect and I have waited so long to meet you and I love you SO much already. Lastly, WHO ARE YOU?!
The last one has stuck with me. He didn’t really look like anyone in our family, although he’s looking more and more like Aaron all the time. A few times I’ve thought he bears a resemblance to my niece Caroline. I don’t know what I was expecting. I suppose a baby that looked more like Moses, but whatever he looked like in my subconscious, it wasn’t my Judah. That’s shifted now, of course, but every now and then in the middle of the night, I still ask that question.
So there it is. I had a perfectly normal baby and a perfectly normal birth. I prayed for both of those things and got them, except for that little epidural failure, which wound up being a good thing since I could very much feel well enough to push effectively. Moreover, I’ve had a totally textbook post-partum experience. And PRAISE YE THE LORD, Judah does not seem to have reflux!!! And PRAISE YE THE LORD, Judah is a good nurser and I don’t seem to have any problems making enough milk for him, he had great latch right away and my milk came in on day three, just like it should. And he’s been sleeping for four hour stretches at night since day one. (Moms knows this is HUGE.)
And so far, against all odds and in spite of the ravings of an alarmist nurse practitioner, it doesn’t seem like I have post-partum depression. Fingers crossed still on that last one since we didn’t figure that out for a few months with Moses. But it doesn’t feel now like it did then, not by a long shot.
So I guess this boy and this birth are further proof of the rainbow baby theory.
And for all these things, I am grateful beyond words.