Our Birth Story (Kenzie's Perspective)
Holy moly I cannot believe how many requests we got for this bad boy in the first week of baby Remi’s life, but here I sit before you, ready to pour my heart out and tell you all our birth story! I felt like all throughout my pregnancy I was told the worst of the worst birth stories, things that went wrong, things that could go wrong, to get the drugs, not to get the drugs, etc, etc, etc. Let me tell you right now, none of that matters when it comes to your own birth adventure. I had things that I wanted to try, things I absolutely didn’t want, and things I was open minded to, educated about, and able to make decisions on as we went along. I share my story with you in hopes that you find birth as an adventure, not a scary, unknown story. I will give full disclosure that parts of this story will be graphic, and not for the faint of heart. You have been warned, and so here is where we begin our adventure!
I woke up early December 17th, around 5 AM with preg-somnia. There’s a point in your final days or weeks of pregnancy where you simply cannot get comfortable in bed anymore, and I guess that’s one of nature’s ways of preparing you for parenthood... with lack of sleep. Nevertheless, I had things to do on this eventful Monday. December 18th, the following day, I would be 41 weeks pregnant and I was on the docket for an induction as we were a week overdue and my doctor worried about how large Mr. Remi was getting on the inside. I baked my 15 dozen cinnamon rolls bright and early, and called the Labor and Delivery nurses station at our chosen hospital just to verify the details of our induction the next day, and of course to be a bug in the ear of the nurses. I was basically told that I was on the list to be induced… behind many others, and because I was a very textbook pregnancy, the odds of actually getting induced on the 18th were slim and it could take as long as A WEEK to find me a bed. I got off the phone discouraged, but went about my baking business. I remember at one point that morning, I felt little...leaky if you know what I mean. I put a panty liner in and didn’t think much more of the situation because I had become accustomed to my leaky bladder in the final weeks, and this didn’t seem any different.
I went over to a friend’s house and celebrated her birthday. I had a few more bouts of leaks, and I told my friend about them. It just didn’t seem too alarming yet, but I promised if it got worse that I’d go to the ER to see if my water had broken. I called my best friend, a Labor and Delivery nurse at a different hospital to get confirmation on the situation (I love peace of mind), and she said it was basically a toss up. I could have a slow leak in my bag of waters and be completely unaware, but eventually it would rupture and I’d have a real movie style gush of fluids. I went about my day as normal and just monitored the situation because it still didn’t feel like much. Around 5 PM, I sat down in our home office to write a blog post while Nik was at the gym. He had been gone for about 30 minutes, and I knew I had some time to write a post. I typed away for 5 minutes or so, and I suddenly felt warm fluids in my seat. I stood up quickly and squeezed my pee muscles to see if I could stop it… and I couldn’t. My water had broken.
I hightailed it to the bathroom to clean myself up, called Nik and said the only thing I could think of… “hey...how much longer do you have at the gym?”, Nik excitedly asked “WHY?!?!”, I said “well, I think my water just broke…” and he was home in a hot, hot second. I called my mom to give her a heads up, called my best friend to explain all the details of my waters (again for peace of mind and confirmation) and finished packing our hospital bag with all the last minute items. Nik got me a sandwich and some heavy duty pads for the drive to the hospital, and I showered and ate (highly recommend) before leaving for the hospital. We got to the hospital around 6:30 PM and went through the ER. We were taken up to L & D (labor and delivery) about 10 minutes later, and by 7 PM I was checked by a doctor and told that we were being admitted, my water had broken, and I was 1.5 centimeters dilated. We updated our friends and family that it was baby time, unloaded the car, and settled in to our room. About an hour later my mom came to the hospital and stayed for the duration of my labor and delivery (again, highly recommend). Nik and I had already discussed having my mom there for my comfort and to help with Nik since he would be looking after me. It was really nice having her there so he didn’t really have to leave my side except when he needed to use the restroom, and my mom would step right in to help keep me focused on relaxing, getting the nurse when needed, and keeping a momma’s watchful eye on all the vitals I and Remi were hooked up to. By 8 PM, I was checked again to see if contractions had begun on their own or if I’d need to start Pitocin. At this point, I didn’t feel much more than a soggy bottom, because you keep making amniotic fluid even after your bag of waters has burst. I was surprised to find that I’d gone from 1.5 to 2.5 centimeters in dilation and 100% effaced in just an hour WITHOUT painful contractions! So far, this birth thing was easy! This doctor also told us “baby has a LOT of hair!” which felt to us like a glimpse into the future, and something to look forward to as we labored and day dreamed about what Mr. Remi would look like.
The attending OB on call decided to start me on the lowest dosage of Pitocin and to increase it every hour until contractions were established and regular, so I was given a saline lock, first attempted on my left arm, but the nurse poked through my vein (*ouchhhh), so it ended up in my right forearm. Uncomfortable at first, but I had it in three days and within an hour I couldn’t really feel it anymore which was nice. My blood was drawn and I was monitored every 30 minutes for my temperature and blood pressure, and two monitors were placed around my belly. The one closest to my breasts was to monitor contractions, and the one lower on my belly was to monitor Remi’s heart rate. When your water breaks, you are at greater risk of infection, so monitoring baby’s heart rate is imperative, and keeping tabs on my temp and blood pressure, as well as the labs they sent off, would ensure both myself and baby were free of infection and safe to labor regularly for a vaginal delivery. Should baby’s heart rate drop, or if I were to spike a fever, we could need antibiotics, or even a cesarean delivery. I made my peace with this information and just remained hopeful that we’d make it to the end uneventfully. Thankfully, going into labor at night means you have some easy contractions to start with, so I took advantage of the easy part and tried to catch some sleep. Nik set up camp on the sofa in the room, and my mom got comfy in the rocking chair. Nik and I both caught about 4-5 hours of sleep (interrupted with nurses and doctors coming in to up meds, check vitals, etc), but my mom being the momma bear and trooper she is, stayed awake for all but about an hour keeping a diligent eye on all my and baby’s vitals, and helping me in and out of bed to use the restroom as contractions got stronger (I was also hooked up to the IV and all monitors, so we’d have to remove all those or unplug them from the walls to travel with me to the restroom).
I woke up with strengthening contractions around 5 AM, now needing to focus on relaxing through the pain of the contraction. I can best describe the pain of a contraction first beginning as period cramps and the tightening of the uterus, which at this point us way up in your abdomen, so it feels like your tummy is tightening. The pain is a deep ache that starts at the top of the uterus (abdomen) and in the beginning, slowly moves down into your pelvis giving that crampy sensation. As they increased in strength, I had back labor which is all of the above AND an extreme back ache. I’ll get more into this later. For now, I was okay and dealing with the pain better than I could have expected. My OB, Dr. Ghai, came in around 6 AM when her shift began, and checked me. I was 4 centimeters and counting, and she said she anticipated me delivering in the afternoon if all went well. The nurses went through shift change and I met one of the 3 or 4 ladies that would help us labor and deliver through the rest of the experience (their guidance and care was truly divine).
My mom ran to get breakfast and coffee for herself and Nik before contractions got worse, they ate and I was given a clear liquids diet including a delicious frozen lemon sherbet and jello. The hours after this came and went quickly. By 9 AM I was experiencing back labor and moved out of bed onto a birthing ball I’d brought to the hospital. I bounced and swayed side to side, Nik and my mom rubbed my back and supported me through contractions, and I focused 100% on not tensing up any part of my body. My mom had me count backwards through contractions, and as I did so I would breathe in and out as slowly as I could (at times this was only a hair away from hyperventilating, but I’d get a tender reminder from my mom, Nik, or our nurse to slow down). Starting at 79, for whatever arbitrary reason, I would count backwards and breathe. Contractions up to this point had a hill shape in intensity, meaning they’d start weak, intensify over a few seconds, peak for a bit, and begin to fade with time between to relax and rest, go to the restroom, get fluids, etc. A few hours later, I was near agony. I was going to the restroom as often as I could to empty my bladder and bowels to make room my my descending baby who was crushing these organs and making them feel perpetually full. I swayed on my ball and felt myself begin to clench when a contraction came. The unfortunate effect of Pitocin was that contractions can be intensified or manipulated by the drugs, so my contractions no longer had a beautiful bell shape, and instead would go from zero to 100% in about 2 seconds, peak and plateau for what felt like an eternity, and sometimes come back to back, so just as it was fading, another would begin. Nik and I had taken Bradley Method classes for a natural childbirth, but more so we could learn about the process in its entirety. I was not against pain management in the form of drugs, I just wanted to be well informed of what my body would do during labor. I also set the mental goal of getting to 6 centimeters in dilation before getting any drugs, as this seemed to be the good rule of thumb for a well established labor.
Nik and I didn’t set up a secret code word, I didn’t ask him to try to talk me out of pain meds, and Nik was supportive of anything I needed during labor. He had completely dropped his comical self after breakfast and situated into his new role of labor coach. I truthfully do not think I would have had near the experience I did without his sweet, supportive words, reminders, gentle touches, and redirection through hundreds of contractions. If he needed something, my mom tended to him. In his absence, my mom stepped in and was the support person I needed. Having gone through labor and delivery naturally herself on three occasions, she knew what I needed to hear at each point in my labor. At whatever time of the later morning/early afternoon, I leaned on Nik and said “I think I need an epidural”. He nodded and called the nurse immediately. She first checked my cervix and noted that I was 6 centimeters dilated (thank GOD, I’d hit my mental checkpoint), and I could definitely get an epidural now. She let us know that it was a rather busy day in L & D and that it would be at least an hour until the anesthesiologist was available to even start the process, and it took a bit of time to get set up and to get the drugs flowing. After a few more minutes in fairly excruciating pain, I was offered IV pain relief and accepted. This was one of the few things I’d been against throughout the pregnancy, but truthfully, until you’re in that situation, you have no idea what you will or won’t want. I was given a dose of fentanyl through my IV and it took effect in seconds. For 15-20 minutes, my pain was dulled (not gone), but my brain was foggy. I had to close my eyes because they wouldn’t focus on anything, and I felt drunk. I wasn’t a huge fan of the IV drugs, so I held out for the epidural the rest of the time. The IV drugs wore off quickly and the contractions returned to high intensity with a vengeance. They’d seemed to maintain the same manner of increasing quickly, peaking and plateauing, but then they began to taper off and give me a bit of time between as they returned to a somewhat normal rhythm just as the anesthesiologist showed up. Nik’s mom had shown up somewhere in the meantime here, I assume while I was on IV meds because I don’t remember her coming in, but I do remember the nurse asking everyone to leave except Nik. The moms left, I sat on the edge of the bed and put my chin to my chest, poking my spine backwards. Nik had to sit on the couch away from me, and the nurse assisted me in staying still through the contractions so the anesthesiologist could work.
Here’s where things got squirely for a while. I have scoliosis, a condition where my spine is crooked and makes an S curve down my back, where most people have a straight spine. The anesthesiologist struggled to place the catheter properly and I ended up getting numbed 3 times, poked and threaded somewhere around 12-14 times, all the while going through the most painful contractions. To make matters worse, the anesthesiologist had a serious God complex and was quite rude to my nurse which made me tense. He also asked me numerous times to stay still AFTER telling me that if he’d placed the catheter wrong, it would hit my spine and make me involuntarily jerk… meaning I would have no control over it……… my nurse was awesome in helping me stay calm and as still as possible, though towards the end I was fighting to stay still so much that my whole body began to shake. She put my head on her chest and stroked my hair, held my shoulders in place over and over again until the anesthesiologist finally gave up and called it as good as it would get. He left the room and the epidural began to take effect, with one issue. Only half of my body was going numb. My left side was decreasing in pain substantially, but I still had nearly full feeling on my right side. I let my nurse know and she went into beast mode. My petite nurse pulled the towel underneath my bottom so that my hips rotated and instead of laying on my back, in seconds, I was laying on my right side. The epidural must have shifted, and allowed for a majority of my right side to go numb as well. I’d say I still had about 15% feeling in my lower half, but this was kind of the best of both worlds! Feeling, but no real PAIN. Pressure yes, intensifying greatly over the next hours, but pain was at an all time low for the day. I was checked again since it had been a couple of hours since my last check, and I was already 8 centimeters dilated! Pain was being managed, my catheter was placed, my cervix was dilating, and I was a little exhausted, so I took the next hour or so to snooze off and on.
At some point during my in and out of elective consciousness phase (could have even been before my epidural, I truthfully don’t remember), my mother-in-law arrived at the hospital to come see us. My mom and Nik had done a great job in taking care of me, but my MIL wanted to check on us too. One thing I will mention is that as my epidural took effect, I began to shake uncontrollably. Like not just a little. Not a shiver, but a full on SHAKE. When I get nervous, my legs shake a little, but this was like adrenaline central mixed with a slew of meds that made my body go numb. I was so shaky that my mom and MIL began to worry and I think even called my nurse at one point, but I’d read that it was normal. Please note, just because ‘it’s normal’ doesn’t mean it’s not alarming. It was definitely kind of scary, but our nurse put our minds at ease and I continued to rest as best I could. Over the next hour or so, I began to feel the most pressure I’ve ever felt… in my butt. Like my insides were literally being crushed, and the overwhelming ‘need to poop’ sensation grew stronger with every contraction. Think constipation feeling here, on steroids. When the pressure got to the point where I felt like I might actually birth right then and there, I let Nik know that it felt like I needed to push. My abdominal muscles even tightened on their own and made me push a little bit. My body was taking over and sending me signs that delivery was SOOOO close! The nurse came and checked me and I was now 9 ½ centimeters dilated and she was going to alert my doctor. About 30-60 minutes later, my doctor showed up and noted that I was 10 centimeters dilated, and ready to start pushing! She wanted to do a few ‘practice pushes’ with me (basically to gauge how long she’d have to check on other patients while I labored with my nurse and family). If you’ve made it this far, please note that I’ve kept it pretty PG, but things are about to get graphic. Stop HERE if you can’t handle it. You’ve been warned.
My nurse dimmed the lights, busted out the stirrups, assigned my husband to my left leg and my mom to my right. I asked my MIL to stay and take photos for us and she was just tickled pink, so that made my heart happy. My doctor waited for a contraction and we did our first practice push. The good news: It finally felt like I could work WITH the pressure and get this baby out! I still had some feeling in my lower body and I could feel exactly where I needed to push, which muscles to use, etc, which was kind of a reason I didn’t want an epidural in the first place. Many women complain that their delivery is prolonged because they couldn’t feel where they needed to direct their attention, but lucky me, we didn’t have this issue. Now for the bad news: Being able to feel down there meant that I could feel a few different things. Mostly just pressure, no real pain, but I could actually feel in that very first push that my bowels were basically being rung out from top to bottom, and I could 100% feel that I needed to actually poop. Let me disclose, I am a private bodily functions person. This goes out the window somewhere around 4-5 centimeters and you could care less who sees whatever fluids or solids are coming out of you. As I finished my first practice push, my doctor and nurse looked a little disappointed. I could tell they thought I could do more, and that this was going to be a longer delivery. As another contraction built up, I knew what needed to be done to get this baby moving in the right direction. At that moment in time, I made the conscious decision to push with every ounce of my being. Thankfully, the nurse and doctor are well accustomed to maintaining a shred of the delivering mom’s privacy and they discreetly moved puppy pads and towels every couple of pushes to keep a somewhat clean area for baby to make his appearance. After the second and third practice pushes, my doctor looked much more satisfied and said, “okay, I’ll be back in about 30 minutes to delivery your baby!”. Two things were felt upon hearing this sentence. 1) holy crap, only 30 minutes and I’ll have my baby?!?!? 2) really? My doctor is SOOOOO busy that she can’t labor with me 30 minutes to deliver? I have to be honest, I felt like that was a short amount of time to wait, and I was a little disgruntled that she was leaving with the birth of my baby so close, but more on that later.
Over the next 20 minutes, I labored with my husband, mom, nurse, and MIL taking photos. Between contractions we would crack jokes or I’d be offered some advice or encouragement and we’d take on the next contraction. Nik was counting with me, reminding me where to push, asking me to go a little longer and push a little harder each time. After what seemed like only a few minutes, my nurse said, “okay, relax for a minute and I’m going to call the doctor!”. I then had to wait through 4 stronger contractions and again, I was disgruntled at my doctor for leaving in the first place. I felt like I could have already delivered on my own, SHEESH! My doctor finally busted through the doors all gloved up and sterilized, ready to do the damn thing! She had about 8 people following her, a few nurses, someone prepping tools kits, and a few more people whose purposes were unknown to me completely. Again, you don’t care who is looking up your gown at this point. My nurse broke down the bed I was in, it basically cut in half and my butt was now on the edge of the half bed. They tilted my back support up a little bit, and turned the baby warmer on. Within minutes, we were ready to go!
The next few minutes were a surreal blur. While I pushed during a contraction, my doctor was stretching me around the baby’s head over and over again (preventing what truthfully could have been a detrimental tear because this kid’s head was massive). When Remi began to crown, my doctor alerted Nik and he was front and center, so excited to witness all these moments. Nik looked up at me and said “wow, he’s got a lot of hair!”. Something in that sentence made it so real to me. There’s a real, true baby in there! My doctor mentioned at one point, “oh, he’s going to be big…” and she offered me a half smile like I knew the difference between a 6 and 15 pound baby, but knowing he was big didn’t scare me off. My mom delivered me, an 11 pound baby, so I knew it was genetically possible. A few more pushes went by in what felt like seconds, and my doctor casually asked a nurse to take over the right leg from my mom. I assumed my mom was getting tired or the doctor needed the nurse for something specific, but I didn’t know that Remi’s shoulders got stuck for a half second. Doctor Ghai then demonstrated why her time was so valuable and why she shows up for practice pushes and delivery only. Anticipating him getting stuck, 2 points Dr. Ghai. Swapping out a nurse the moment before he was stuck, 5 points Dr. Ghai. The stretching, lack of tool usage, and unsticking baby boy before parents even noticed, 10 points Dr. Ghai. Nik compared her to a professional athlete walking on the field. Bases were loaded, and my doctor hit a grand slam. My mom and MIL knew exactly what was happening, but being the newbie parents Nik and I are, we (thankfully) had no idea. I was alerted that Remi’s head was out and I’d need another big push for his body, so instead of the normal 10 second push, I drew in a big breath and knew this was going to be my last push. Nik counted with me up to 15 seconds, and I felt Remi’s shoulders rotate, and his body come out the rest of the way. The pressure relief was insane. The doctor laid Remi on my stomach immediately. While I was in awe of what had just happened, I looked around my room. My mom and MIL were both crying and hugged, Nik was looking at our baby lovingly (off and on looking at him like he was a bridge troll too, because newborns are gross), and my doctor was already cleaning and stitching me up. Remi came out screaming, so there wasn’t even a second where we were concerned about him breathing. He was wiped down by my nurse, Nik cut the cord, and (I don’t even remember when I was basically stripped) laid on my skin and covered with a blanket. My doctor gave me a 2 second warning that I was going to deliver the placenta, and just like that, we were done.
I was cleaned up, my epidural was turned off and removed, and we were made comfortable in our bed again. Remi immediately took to nursing after delivery, and though our family waited in anticipation to meet him, he suckled for right around 2 HOURS! Delivery made us all hungry. We had a few visitors, I changed clothes and learned how to take care of my postpartum lady bits, and we were moved into a recovery room. Our nurses took amazing care of us, and we were able to go home the next night.
All in all, I would say that I anticipated everything that could go wrong to go wrong. I had made peace with my doctor not delivering Remi, or getting an emergency cesarean, or whatever else my mind could dream up. I worried a lot in my last trimester about all the birth horror stories I’d heard, and wondered why I hadn’t heard any GOOD experiences (like my own). It dawned on my that people who have a bad time like to share their stories, if even as part of a mental healing process, or forewarning to others, and those who had a good “boring” experience likely just keep to themselves because it was nothing special. I hope my experience has brought you some kind of peace to your mind if you are expecting or planning a family, and I feel like there are way more “boring” experiences out there!
If you had a good labor and delivery experience, consider sharing your story with expecting friends! I had a fairly balanced idea of birth, but so many are terrified of what could happen. I hope you enjoyed my story!