Will in his isolette
Will being given room air post-delivery
Our sweet angel, William Robert
I am so happy and proud to announce that Matt and I welcomed a son, William Robert, into this world on February 17, 2016 at 6:01 in the morning. I wept tears of joy when Matt looked at the baby and told us we had a son, something I had suspected all along. I had never felt that elated in my life. Those joyful feelings were quickly replaced with feelings of fear and anger, however. You see, Will showed up in our lives at only 34 weeks and two days gestational age. So whatever visions I had of us recovering together in the hospital, of us returning home as a family of three, of adjusting to life with no sleep together were lost when neonatologists scooped my baby out of my arms and whisked him away to the NICU.
Everyone has a unique birth story and birth experience, which is why it is important to share. While I had made very few plans as to specifics, nothing was even remotely as I had imagined it. On February 14, Matt and I took maternity photos, and celebrated Valentine's Day as well as our 13th anniversary as a couple. I was not feeling my best, but I knew that any contractions I was feeling were undoubtedly Braxton-Hicks, as a tele-nurse had assured me. And besides, I had my 34 week appointment on the 16th; surely I could address any issues with my OB at that point. The next day, I was supposed to teach a ballet class for a friend who was out of town in the afternoon. I kept telling Matt that I just had a bad feeling, and didn't want to go. He told me to call in sick. I went anyways, knowing that I was just being hormonal.
On the car ride there, my baby, who had always been a big kicker, was stretching his limbs even more forcefully than normal. I had so much pressure in my ribcage that I thought a bone was about to crack. As soon as I left the car and walked into the studio, the pressure released and was followed by what was certainly my water breaking. Very calmly, I explained that I had to leave, and drove myself home. I called Matt on the way and asked him to contact our doctor's office to see how we should proceed. Although we were already pre-registered at Memorial Hospital, the nurse told us we had to head to St John's because they had a NICU and there was a chance our baby would have to be admitted since he was pre-term.
Immediately upon our arrival at St. John's, things got off to a rocky start. The woman who was supposed to be taking my information repeatedly interrupted us to help other people and answer the phone. Even though I had expressly told her my water had broken and that I was only 34 weeks along, she clearly thought I was just being dramatic. And she was not the only one. The nurses and the resident doctor who were working both asked me to describe what happened when I "thought" my water had broken. Then, after waiting an entire hour, they checked to see if my membranes had actually ruptured. They had.
"At this point, we will probably just let you go ahead and deliver," I was told. Although my baby would be preterm, he would be late-preterm, and there would likely not be too many health issues. I was given a contraction monitor (turns out those Braxton-Hicks I had been feeling of a couple weeks were the real deal), and started on a pitocin drip to speed things along. I was told that if things did not advance within 24 hours, I would likely have to have an emergency C-section. I had not planned very many things for my delivery, but I did know that I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid a C-section, especially if my baby was not going to be able to come home with me immediately. Luckily, my OB agreed, and said it would be excessive to do a C-section for what was likely to be such a small baby.
After laboring all through the night and into the next morning, I was told I had not progressed at all. Will is my first child, so I wanted to wait and see how I was doing before getting an epidural. Even though my internal contraction monitor read that my contractions were incredibly strong, I knew that I could handle it as long as the end was in sight, despite myriad doctors and nurses coming in to constantly ask if I wanted anything for the pain. When I learned that the end was nowhere in sight, I finally relented and got an epidural. I had waited nearly 20 hours, but everyone told me that oftentimes an epidural relaxes you and helps to move things along a bit. For me, it didn't.
On top of all of this, even before I received the epidural, I had to lay on my left side. Every time I stood up, or laid on my back or my right side, he would have bradycardia and the nurses would rush in to check on everything. This was extremely difficult as someone who is almost constantly moving. After I got the epidural, I did feel instantly relaxed and calm, but it did not do anything to help me progress, and we were coming up on the 24 hour mark.
Finally on the morning of the 17th, I asked Matt to check the monitor to see what my contractions were doing. I could feel them, and pretty intensely. Because I was forced to remain on my left side, all of the medicine was gone from my right (epidurals work by gravity). He looked and said they weren't too crazy, just in the 70s. I wold him to call for the nurse because I thought it was time. She came in and checked me, and then called for the doctor to come in. The doctor confirmed that I was dilated to 10 and 100 per cent effaced. The baby's head was right where it was supposed to be, and it was time to start pushing. I had gone from 2 to 10 within an hour.
Luckily, I stayed in shape throughout my pregnancy, dancing nearly every single day, so I only ended up pushing for a total of 35 minutes. That made up for the 38 hours I was in labor! Will came out weighing 5 pounds, two ounces, and was 18 and a half inches long. The moment I saw him it was like meeting a soul mate. It was as though I had been his mom my whole life, and had just been waiting to meet him.
Skin-to-skin was the only thing besides avoiding a C-section that I was really adamant about, but the neonatologists wouldn't allow it, so I was able to had him, completely swaddled for a total of five minutes before the took him upstairs to the NICU. I was assured by nurses that he was doing great and would probably only spend a couple of days in there, so I was hopeful. We are the lucky ones, I thought. And I still believe that, despite the fact that my son stayed in the hospital for a total of seven weeks. Seven weeks away from his family, hooked up to monitors, being watched by strangers during the times my husband and I were unable to spend at his bedside. Seven weeks being used as a case study for residents in a teaching hospital, despite Matt and I doing everything in our power to try and get our son home with us. But the NICU journey is a story for another day.
Mamas-to-be, if I have learned anything from my experience, it is that these babies are in charge of their destinies, no matter the plans we may have for them as parents. They will do things in their own time, when they are ready, even if we are not. I have also learned to listen to my gut, even if medical professionals think you are just a nervous first-timer. Although I choose not to dwell on it, perhaps my early labor could have been stopped before my water broke if I had demanded to see my doctor when I felt contractions. We might have avoided the NICU stay, or at least shortened its duration. But above all, I have learned that it is beyond worth it. The struggles have made my husband and I stronger as individuals and as a couple. And although leaving my baby broke my heart in a way I cannot explain to those who have not experienced it, my capacity for love is deeper now than I could have ever imagined. Stay strong, and try and enjoy the journey, no matter what curve balls it may throw in your direction. <3